Cinema of the Middle East

Middle Eastern cinema refers collectively to the film output and film industries of Middle East.

This particular refers to the sizeable industries of Egypt, Iran, and Turkey. By definition, it also covers the film industries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.


The cinema of Armenia is more substantial than the cinema of the Persian Gulf nations.

  • Namus, was the first Armenian silent black and white film (1925, Namus on IMDb ), describing the ill fate of two lovers, who were engaged by their families to each other since childhood, but because of violations of namus (a tradition of honor), the girl was married by her father to another person.


The cinema of Azerbaijan is well established and diverse unlike the much more recent and fledgling cinema of the Persian Gulf nations. The film industry in Azerbaijan dates back to 1898 and Azerbaijan was among the first countries involved in cinematography.


The first cinema to be established in Bahrain consisted of a makeshift cinema set up in a cottage in 1922, with the first official cinema set up in 1937. Several more were established in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Bahrain Cinema and Film Distribution Company began operating in 1967,[1] which was renamed the Bahrain Cinema Company in 1976. There are now a number of modern-style cinemas in Bahrain, including the 20-screen complex in Bahrain City Centre.[2] (See Cinema of Bahrain).



The cinema of Egypt is one of the oldest and most dominant in the Middle East, with over 3000 films produced since 1896 when the first screening in Alexandria by the Lumière Brothers who chose to show their short film on 5 November 1896 in one of the halls of the Toussoun Bourse (the Café Zawani) less than a year after the first ever film screening shown to the world in Le Grand Café in Paris.[3] As Early as 1897 the Cinématographe Lumière in Alexandria started to offer regular screenings. The construction of special sites for screenings followed soon. In 1906 the French company Pathé constructed a movie-theatre in Cairo.[4]


The cinema of Georgia began just before the 20th century and is rich and varied. A well-organized state film industry emerged in the 1920s with substantial numbers of feature films as well as documentaries and animated films being produced.





Jordan's film industry is small but it is growing at a rapid pace. The SAE Institute Amman and the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts are two media schools that are training a new generation of Jordanian filmmakers, directors, actors and actresses. Several films and film series have been produced over the past few years. Jordan is also becoming an important filming location with several international movies being shot in Jordan like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.


Sons of Sinbad was the first movie shot in Kuwait, in 1939 by Alan Villier.[5] The Kuwait Cinema Company was then established in 1954, with the first cinema located in the Sharq area. It now runs the Cinescape cinema chain, the only theatre chain available to Kuwaiti cinema goers. The well-known Kuwaiti film Bas Ya Bahar was produced in 1972 by Khalid al Siddiq, which tells the story of a pearl diver who is hunting for a large pearl so that he can marry a woman from a rich family. The film is set in Kuwait's pre-oil days and is critical of society and its treatment of women and religion.[6] (See Cinema of Kuwait).


Cinema in Lebanon has been in existence since the 1920s[7], and the country has produced more than 500 films[8].


The cinema of Oman is reportedly small, with only one major film having been released. It hosts the Muscat Film Festival annually since 2005.[9] Al-Boom, Oman's first feature-length film, premiered in 2006. (See Cinema of Oman).



Qatar has little known cinema history. The Qatar Cinema Company was founded in 1970, which built a number of movie theatres showing foreign films. There has been little development of the Qatari film industry,[10] though that may be set to change since the founding of the Doha Film Institute in 2010, which aims to bring together all of the country's film making initiatives and projects.[11] Qatar also hosts the annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival launched in 2009.

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, despite a number of movie theatres operating in the past, cinemas were banned in the 1970s as they were considered un-Islamic.[12] There have been some signs of relaxation, for example, Jeddah has started hosting a European Film Festival since 2006, and a single Saudi film festival was held in Dammam in 2008,[12] though this did not meet with a favourable response from some of the more extreme religious leaders. Furthermore, the film Menahi was screened in Riyadh in 2009, although women were banned from attending.[12] However, there have been reports of secret cinemas operating in recent years,[12] with organisers denying that it promotes un-Islamic values. There are also reports of many Saudi citizens travelling to neighbouring states to go to the cinema,[12] or watching films online.[13] Furthermore, the film industry is receiving support from Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, owner of entertainment company Rotana, which some see as an encouraging sign for the reestablishment of cinema in Saudi Arabia.[13] (See Cinema of Saudi Arabia).



United Arab Emirates

There is an expanding film industry in the United Arab Emirates, strengthened by the annual Gulf Film Festival showcasing cinematic productions from the region, as well as the Dubai International Film Festival, which was launched in 2004. UAE film-makers have been able to contribute a large volume of films to these festivals.[14] UAE's first horror film is set to premier in the fall of 2013 after some delays in production.[14]


See also


  1. "". 2007-03-30. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  2. Archived November 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Alexandria, Why? (The Beginnings of the Cinema Industry in Alexandria)". Bibliotheca Alexandrina's AlexCinema.
  4. Leaman, Oliver (2003-12-16). Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Routledge. ISBN 9781134662524.
  5. "History of Kuwait Cinema - Banana Kuwait Blog | Entertainment | Food | Fashion | Electronics". Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  6. "The history of cinema and the film industry KUWAIT". Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  7. Shafik, Viola. Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity, The American University in Cairo Press; Revised, Updated edition (January 5, 2017), page 9
  8. Harabi, Najib. Knowledge Intensive Industries: Four Case Studies of Creative Industries in Arab Countries, World Bank Project, 2009, page 16.
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  10. "The history of cinema and the film industry QATAR". Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  11. "The Institute". Doha Film Institute. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 David Batty (2012-10-15). "Secret cinema gently subverts Saudi Arabia's puritanism | World news". London: Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  13. 1 2 "Saudi Arabia: Movie theatres are still banned, but the film business is moving on « Knowledge and news about Artistic Freedom of Expression". 2012-06-13. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  14. 1 2 "UAE: Arab cinema takes center stage at Gulf Film Fest - United Arab Emirates -". 2010-01-03. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
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