Egypt: embarking upon a new era of silver screen success?

Author:Monitor, Al

In the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the literary works of leading Egyptian authors brought glory to the big screen when their novels were made into films. This year, the Egyptian novel took to the small screen when Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz's Afrah al-Qubbah (Wedding Song) was made into a television series broadcast during Ramadan.

Similar literary works are expected to be broadcast on TV in the next few years, as Egyptian production company El Adl Group announced a few days ago that it has finished the main set for the TV series Wahat al-Ghurub (The Sunset Oasis), which is based on Bahaa Tahir's novel of the same name. The series is to be filmed at the Siwa Oasis within weeks, to be broadcast during Ramadan 2017.

This phenomenon of turning widely read and best-selling novels into screenplays was embraced when scriptwriter Wahid Hamid turned Alaa al-Aswani's best-selling The Yacoubian Building into a 2006 film directed by a young Marwan Hamid. The story is about an old apartment building in downtown Cairo occupied by Egyptians representing different economic, social and cultural castes. The film and the novel alike depict the suffering and transformation of every social caste in Egypt since the movement of July 23, 1952, until 2005, a period which included the overthrow of the monarchy and political parties and the military taking the reins of power.

Since The Yacoubian Building, the idea of turning novels into screenplays has become more common. For instance, The Blue Elephant, Hepta: The Last Lecture and The Price are films adapted from novels written respectively by novelists Ahmad Murad, Muhammad Sadiq and Amal Afifi. However, critic Mahmoud Abd al-Shakur told Al-Monitor that Wedding Song marks a turning point in "the relationship between the novel and the screenplay."

Mustafa al-Faramawi, the manager of Dar El Shorouk bookstores observed: "The series' excellent script and exceptional production, and the distinguished performance of its crew, have placed the novel on the bestseller list and this speaks of the importance of cinema and television in bringing the audience back to reading." (It is worth mentioning that Dar El Shorouk owns the copyright and distribution rights of Mahfouz's novels in Egypt.)

As Faramawi noted: "Turning a novel into a film usually increases sales of the latter at screening time, as was the case with The Blue Elephant or Hepta. Moreover, the films' posters are sometimes used as covers for the novels'...

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