As recently as two generations ago, when Israel was still a newly founded state and its citizens were dying daily in armed conflicts with the Islamic neighbours, movies from its biggest adversary Egypt were broadcast on Israeli public television every week and captivating the imagination of people across ethnic descents and political persuasions. This cultural phenomenon is the focus of the engaging and informative documentary Arab Movie.
Co-director Eyal Sagui Bizawe expanded from the history of his own Egyptian-Jewish family to incorporate interviews with other spectators from that period, as well as actors who have participated in Egyptian productions then and film industry professionals. Their recollections piece together a vivid picture of a nation fervently anticipating the Friday afternoon movie programme on TV while giving us a rough idea of how this improbable weekly ritual ever came to be. At just over 60 minutes, Arab Movie turns out to be surprisingly substantial, dealing with subjects personal and societal, cinematic and self-reflective. Especially the immaterial but profound bond between a film and its audience it portrays touches on a nerve amid all the historical gravitas.
It’s hardly possible to talk about international relations in the Middle East without getting tangled in a context of religious and political correctness. However, this unassuming but thoroughly researched movie demonstrates with a compelling voice that good stories skillfully put on film can cross the unlikeliest of borders and bridge the most distant of hearts.
Arab Movie | Directed by Eyal Sagui Bizawe and Sara Tsifroni (Israel 2015) documentary. Premieres on October 27 at Babylon Mitte