Contract of rent between Aziza Amir and Prince Mohamed (through Mr. Aziz Osman) whereby Aziza Amir rents a copy of the film The Night is Ours (El Leil Leina) to Prince Mohamed of Hijjaz for private viewing for the sum of 130 pounds on condition that the film will not be taken outside the
borders of Hijjaz.
My Father Deceived Me
Mofida Mohamed Ghoneim was born in Alexandria. In 1923, on one of her trips to Europe, she applied to Gaumont Company in Paris to work as an actress, but her acting career began in Youssef Wahbi’s troupe in 1925. Eventually she joined Okasha’s troupe and played leading roles. It was there that she got to know Elie Derie, a Jewish millionaire who supported her financially. She later joined the Ramsis, el Rehani and the Teatro el Ezbekieh troupes.
But she had other aspirations. “I am more inclined to cinema and I hope that I might be a cinema actress. I tried my best to make this dream come true” (el Ghandour, p. 64). To achieve that, Amir married Ahmed el Sherei, a wealthy young gentleman from Upper Egypt. This gentleman, who was also the Mayor of Samalout, not only broke with his family and disregarded their continuous threats, he also supported her career financially and morally. The couple formed a production company “Isis Film” and appointed Wedad Orfi as art director.
Amir signed a contract with Orfi stating that he would direct the first film to be produced by the company The Call of Allah (Nedâ’ Allah), which eventually became Laila. The contract also stated that Orfi was to have 3 meals daily: breakfast consisting of 10 boiled eggs, white cheese, 3 loaves of bread, jam and tea with milk; lunch consisting of a big chicken, a plate of rice, a plate of vegetables and fruit or dessert; dinner consisting of meat and rice. This was in addition to 3 packets of cigarettes and 6 bottles of beer. She used part of her villa in Garden City as a studio. When the film was finished and shown on a very small scale to a number of reliable critics and friends, the result was absolutely disappointing. Amir asked Orfi to terminate his contract. She first appointed the cameraman Hassan el Halabawi to direct the film then she chose Stéphane Rosti.
In its new version and title, it was considered the first Egyptian feature film and was such a great success that Talaat Harb congratulated her saying “You have accomplished what no man has accomplished” (Hillauer p.28). Ahmed Shawqi, the great Egyptian poet expressed how proud he was of her by saying “I hope this crescent turns into a beautiful full moon” (Darwish p.11). In the original ending of the film the heroine dies, but as this did not appeal to the audience, the ending was changed so that the heroine and her saviour, Raouf Bey (Stéphane Rosti), could get married.
Aziza lived with Ahmed el Sherei for seven years, but eventually they got a divorce because (she claimed) she loved him too much to be the cause of more problems between him and his family. Yet, this did not stop her from marrying his younger brother, Mustafa el Sherei.
Aziza did not limit herself to Egyptian Cinema. She acted in the French film The Tunisian Girl in 1930 and the Turkish films The Egyptian Author (el Moalefa el Misreyah) and In the Streets of Istanbul (Fi chawar‘ Istanbul) in 1932 to prove that Egypt has great actresses. Interestingly, the latter was her first film in classical Arabic. She indulged herself in yet another adventure when she directed the silent film Repent your Sins (Kaferi ‘an Khatî’tek) when sound films were already in cinema houses. Aziza defended her choice by claiming that a sound film would have been difficult to handle as it was a love story between an Egyptian man and an Indian woman. Since she could not make up her mind which language to use, she decided to make it a silent film. As a result, the film was a failure and Aziza lost a lot of money. To gain success once again, she decided to act in the comedy He Wants to Get Married! (Besalamto ‘ayez yetgawez).
Later, when she started working in The Apple Seller (Bayyâ‘et al Touffâh) 1939, an adaptation of Shaw's Pygmalion, she got to know Mahmoud Zulficar , who was playing the main role, and established with him "Amir Film". This aroused the jealousy of her husband and eventually they got a divorce in 1944 and she married Zulficar who became her partner in marriage and cinema.
Hillauer summarizes her view of Aziza Amir:
Aziza Amir has become a true legend in Egypt. Shortly after the revolution in 1919, strong national sentiment and a sense of an “Egyptian soul” prevailed throughout the country. Even Lebanese and Syrians whose families had been living in Egypt for centuries were regarded as foreigners. Aziza Amir was therefore celebrated as a “genuine” Egyptian, in contrast to Assia Dagher and Mary Queeny, whose names alone betrayed their non-Egyptian background. (Haillauer p29)
She acted in the French film The Tunisian Girl in 1930 and the Turkish films The Egyptian Author (el Moalefa el Misreyah) and In the Streets of Istanbul (Fi chawar‘ Istanbul) in 1932 to prove that Egypt has great actresses.
Contract of rent between Aziza Amir and Prince Mohamed (through Mr. Aziz Osman) whereby Aziza Amir rents a copy of the film The Night is Ours (El Leil Leina) to Prince Mohamed of Hijjaz for private viewing for the sum of 130 pounds on condition that the film will not be taken outside the borders of Hijjaz.
1927: Laila (Layla)(actress and producer)
1929: Daughter of the Nile (Bint el Nîl)
1932: The Egyptian Author (el Moualefa el Misreyah)
1032: In the Streets of Istanbul (Fi chawar’ Istanboul)
1933: Repent your Sins (Kaferi ‘an Khatî’tek) (actress, producer and director)
1936: He Wants to Get Married! (Besalamto ‘awoz yetgawez)
1939: The Apple Seller (Bayyâ‘t el touffâh)
1940: The Workshop (el Warsha)
|1940: The Workshop (el Warsha)|
1942: The Countryman (Ibn el Balad) (actress and co-writer of script with Mahmoud Zulficar )
1942: The Wedding Night (Laylat el farah)
1943: Valley of Stars (Wadi el Nogoum)
1944: My Daughter (Ibnatî)
1944: Hababa (Habâbah)
1945: Money (el Folous)
1946: A Burning Candle (Cham‘a tahtarek)
1947: Hadiyya (Hadiyyah)
1948: Above the Clouds (Fawq el Sahâb)
1949: Nadia (Nâdyyah)
- Abd el Rahman, Magdi. Râ’dât el Cinema fi Misr. Alexandria: Matbou’at Maktabet el Iskandaria, 2004.
- Darwish, Mustafa. Dream Makers on the Nile - A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema .Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1998.
- Daoud, Abd el Ghani. Madâres el Adâ̓’ el Tamthîlî fî târîkh el Cinema el Misreyah. Cairo: El Hay’a el ‘Aama li Qosour el Thaqâfah, 1997.
- El Ghandour, Mona. Sultanat el Shasha: Ra’idât el Cinema el Misreyah. Cairo: Riyad el Rayyes lil Kotob wi-l-Nashr, 2005.
- Hillauer, Rebecca. The Encyclopedia of Arab Women Filmmakers. Cairo and New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2005.
- Kassem, Mahmoud. Mawsou‘at el Momathel fi-l-Cinema el ‘Arabiya. Cairo: Maktabet Madbouli, 2004.
- Lashin, Hisham. Mawsem Zawâg wa Talâq el Fanânât. Cairo: el Maktab el I’lâmî el ‘Arabî, 1993.
- (ed.) Wassef, Magda. Egypte: 100 ans de Cinéma. Paris: Institut du Monde Arabe, 1995.
- Aziza Amir received bouquets of flowers tied with strings of real pearls.