Home / news / The first female director in the Arab world … Aziza Amir, the pioneer of Egyptian cinema

The first female director in the Arab world … Aziza Amir, the pioneer of Egyptian cinema

“I succeeded when men failed.” This is how the economist Talaat Harb described her when he attended the opening of her film “Layla” in 1927, the first Egyptian feature film, whose opening ceremony was attended by many community stars, including the prince of poets Ahmed Shawky.

She is the pioneer of Egyptian cinema and the first female director in the Arab world, the actress, producer, editor (producer or editor of films) and screenwriter Aziza Amir, or Mofida Mohamed Ghanem, whose birth anniversary is 119 years, and who has become one of the most famous women who have influenced the film industry.

Aziza Amir was born on December 17, 1901, to a poor family whose origins are in Damietta (north of Cairo). She moved from Alexandria, where she spent most of her childhood, to live in the Sayyida Zeinab neighborhood in Cairo, that popular neighborhood from which she gained many life experiences that helped her in her journey especially She did not complete her education despite her enrollment in school.

The heroine of Youssef Wahbi

The dream was that Youssef Wahbi would give her the championship, which was already done in the play “The Fake Jah” in 1925, and he was also the one who chose her artistic name Aziza Amir, but she only worked with him for one theatrical season. His Italian wife thought there was a love story between them and threatened to kill them if they were shot. She did not turn away from him.

Aziza Amir was afraid for her life, according to what was stated in Youssef Wahbi’s memoirs, “I lived a thousand years”, after which she traveled in many theaters beside the cinema, so she joined Okasha’s troupe and the Rihani troupe. She also played the main role in the play “People of the Cave” during the opening of the national troupe in 1935. At the time, she was the highest paid star.

The first Egyptian female director

Aziza Amir had always dreamed of films entirely Egyptian production, which made her already establishing a production company that she called “Isis”, and encouraged her to take this step, the Turkish director Widad Arefy, who was credited with convincing many women to enter the field of production, such as Aziza Amir and Fatima. Rushdi and Assia Dagher, and she agreed with him on the film “Call of God”, which was later turned into “Layla” in 1927, the first Egyptian silent feature film.

Aziza repeated her success in establishing the Heliopolis Studio Complex and producing her second film, “Bint El-Nil”, thus becoming the first female director in the Arab world. She is also credited with launching the first Egyptian film, but she was unsuccessful when she released the film “My atonement for your sin” in 1933, which cost her heavy losses. It was a silent film after the spread of talking cinema – which prompted her to close her company.

The mother of Egyptian cinema

She was called the mother of Egyptian cinema, due to her great advantage over cinema, so she directed two films, “Girl of the Nile” and “Atonement for Your Sin”, authored 16 films, and edited the movie “Layla” herself, and she is the maker and discoverer of talents as well as she discovered and presented many stars in her work. Through her company, which she founded with her husband, artist Mahmoud Zulfikar, she has produced nearly 25 films.

“My Fair Lady”

Aziza Amir has been interested in presenting various issues. In her film “Girl of the Nile”, she criticized the racial stereotyping of women as being reactionary. She took the lead in presenting the play “Pygmalion” by George Bernardshaw, which she transferred to the cinema through the movie “The Woman of the Apple” which she starred in 1939, It is the story that was presented later in the cinema and theater, the most famous of which is the play “My Beautiful Lady”, through the apple seller. A wealthy betting on her transformation is a woman of an aristocratic society and succeeds in his experience.

In the movie “The Workshop” in 1940, Aziza Amir won the victory for the woman who decided to run the workshop of her husband, whom everyone thought was dead. She was the first artist also to appear in men’s dress, and she also excelled at presenting various tragic characters.

The Palestinian cause

The cinematic language and the camera were the tool that Aziza Amir always used to communicate her ideas, and despite the emergence of a generation of pioneers at this time of products and outputs, Aziza Amir always pioneered the first experience, as she was the first to present the experience of an Arab film dealing with the Palestinian issue “Girl from Palestine in 1948, and the film exposes the stories of Palestinian militants who prefer death to the Zionist occupation.

Global steps

Aziza Amir’s cinematic steps expanded, so she participated in a French film in 1939 entitled “The Tunisian Girl”, and the Turkish films “The Egyptian Writer” and “The Streets of Istanbul” in 1932.

Despite the great success in Aziza Amir’s artistic life, her personal life was stumbling, for only 15 days after her birth, her father died, suffering an early orphan, and she was married 3 times, the first at the age of 14, and then from one of the wealthy people of Upper Egypt whose family refused the marriage that ended in separation. And the last of the artist Mahmoud Zulfikar, with whom she formed a cinematic couple, and despite her marriages, she did not fulfill her dream of motherhood, but she always said, “It is not true that I did not give birth, but rather gave birth to one daughter called Egyptian cinema.”

Her latest movies

Aziza Amir suffered from illness in 1952, and yet she insisted on filming her movie “I Believe in God”, which she did not complete filming her role with, but the makers were content to put a bouquet of roses instead of her as an expression of her stature, so she died on February 28 of the same year after a career that extended For about a quarter of a century.

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