Naguib Mahfouz, the first Arab author to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1988), devoted much of his energy to the movies. Born in Cairo in 1911, he published his first novel in 1939, and published a total of 30 novels and more than 100 short stories up until his death in 2006. He began writing screenplays in the late 1940s, eventually completing more than 25 original scripts and collaborating on many others drawn from his own fiction writing. Throughout his career Mahfouz’s writing exhibited strong visual flair and used cinematic devices such flashbacks and parallel montage to bring his characters to life, whether from the ancient past or Cairo’s contemporary lower middle-class—his two main subjects of exploration. Several of the narratives in this selection of films develop with the political upheaval of the times as a backdrop, an element that resonates greatly today. His ability to move freely between genres and his realistic depictions of his countrymen attracted the attention of many of Egypt’s most notable directors—and even inspired two from Mexico.
Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival; the Egyptian Film Center, Cairo; and IMCINE, Mexico.