Darwish, Mustafa 1928-

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DARWISH, Mustafa 1928-

PERSONAL: Born 1928, in Cairo, Egypt. Education: Cairo University, graduate in law, 1949, diploma in politics and economics, 1950, diploma in law, 1951. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, cycling, cinema.

ADDRESSES: Home—13 al-Boustan St., Cairo, Egypt.

CAREER: Film critic and author. Censor of Arts, chief, 1962; administrative judge, 1969-82.


Dream Makers on the Nile: A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema, American University (Cairo, Egypt), 1997.

SIDELIGHTS: Egyptian film critic and author Mustafa Darwish published his debut work, Dream Makers on the Nile: A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema, in 1997, the year that marked the centenary of filmmaking in the author's native country. Darwish's book is devoted to the origins and evolution of Egyptian filmmaking, and particularly concentrates on the era between the 1930s and the early 1960s, which he considers the golden age of Egyptian film. Darwish explains that the advent of the "talkies," or films with sound dialogue, were wildly popular and had a tremendous impact on Egyptian audiences, largely because most of the people were illiterate and could not read the subtitles of the silent films that had come before. Since then, Egypt has produced far more films than any other Arab nation.

Darwish, who is considered by many to be the foremost Egyptian film critic, maintains that, in addition to loving musicals, Egyptian audiences have traditionally enjoyed melodramas, burlesques, and historical costume dramas. However, this trend began to change by the 1960s as Egyptian films were infused with themes of nationalism, which was spreading across the land because of the leadership of new president, Gamal Abdel Nasser. The author also describes to the reader some of the more important films in Egyptian history, including Bab al-Hadid ("Cairo Central Station," 1958) and Al-Liss wa'l-Kilab ("The Thief and the Dogs," 1962).

Darwish devotes much of the book to the industry's various film stars, some of whom became gigantic celebrities in Egypt. His study includes actors such as Muhammad 'Abd al-Wahhab, 'Abd al-Halim Hafiz, Layla Murad, Umm Kulthum, and Omar Sharif, who also became popular in American cinema. Kulthum, who often starred in various roles as a singing slave girl, was a particular favorite of Egyptian film audiences. In fact, more people came to her funeral in 1975 than attended Nasser's funeral in 1970. Upon the death of 'Abd al-Halim Hafiz in 1977, several fans took their own lives because of their grief. Darwish mined much of the information in the book from old gossip magazines such as Akhbar al-Nujum ("News of the Stars") and Al-Kawakib ("The Stars"), and he goes into the personal lives of the various film celebrities. For example, according to Darwish, Kulthum, who never allowed herself to be kissed in her films, led a chaste lifestyle. However, one of her great rivals of the screen, a woman named Asmahan, who was the star of "Romance and Revenge," allegedly had affairs with many men, including those of some prominence. Darwish recounts that when Asmahan was killed in a fiery car wreck in 1944, many people accused Kulthum of masterminding the crash, so she could eliminate her rival.

In the book, Darwish includes many photographs of the Egyptian film stars, including Kulthum, Naguib Rihani, and one of a youthful Omar Sharif. Some literary critics, such as Times Literary Supplement reviewer Robert Irwin, felt Darwish was more concerned about the celebrity-driven aspects of Egyptian film than he was about issues of content. "Darwish writes about film primarily as entertainment, and he is more interested in the industry's glamorous past than its earnest future," Irwin wrote.



Times Literary Supplement, May 14, 1999, p. 10.


Al-Ahram Weekly,http://www.ahram.org/ (October 23, 2002).*