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The List Goes On...







Zahret el Ola

The Girls of Alexandria

The list goes on and on to include the likes of early actors Hanan Refaat, Victoria Cohen, Hussein and Nagat el Meligui, Mohamed Haddad, who were all active during the early hardly documented period and about whom little is known let alone written.

It then goes on to lesser known Alexandrian contributors to the acting profession, such as Ahmed Luxor (1930), a graduate of the Higher Institute of Acting typecast as the serious police officer or stiff upper lipped aristocrat; Ali Hassanein (1940) a decade younger and late comer to acting, usually typecast as the vagabond or the artist; to Lotfi Labib a Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University graduate who started out on stage gradually making his way to film later to earn long deserved popularity as one of the protagonists of most of the movies of the last decade.

Perhaps the two most prolific of the contemporary Alexandrian male actors in Egyptian Cinema today with deep attachments to the city of their childhood would be Samir Sabri and Mahmoud Abdel Aziz. The former, even with a regular TV show airing twice weekly and a relatively busy acting schedule still finds time to spend with family and friends there. He started a foundation for promoting Alexandrian artists and encouraging young talents, which is also responsible for organizing a yearly song festival.

Mention of Samir Sabri whose long time TV career has sometimes overshadowed his cinematic talent as an actor and singer calls to mind yet another star of television overseas: Nagui. He is one of France's most popular TV presenters and a great entertainer in the medium. It is, however, a little known fact that he was born in Alexandria before leaving for Paris at the age of five. Of Greek/Egyptian origin, his father was Professor Lotfi Fam who taught at Alexandria University in the 1960s.

Mahmoud Abdel Aziz with a filmography that includes blockbuster hits in the history of Egyptian Cinema continues his successful career. In spite of competition and a degenerative eye condition, he can still hold starring roles and his recent films and parts in TV series show great maturity. His attachment to Alexandria is clear from all his interviews where he mentions the city with love and recognition. He visits there often to see his mother and spend time with cousins Yashar and Sherine Abbas, and good friend Wassim Mohieldin in Montazah where he loves to go swimming.

Another Alexandrian but with fewer and far between links with the city today is TV actor Ahmed Abdel Aziz who made his mark especially in historical series flaunting his horse-riding skills. More recently, and counting among the younger generation is young shooting star Ahmed Rizk doing comedy back to back with more serious roles and gaining a large following specially among young moviegoers.

Of the female actors, Nadia el Guindi is an uncontested film, and recently TV, star. Her roots with the city may have been severed over the years, having gotten married first to actor Emad Hamdi, then to producer Mohamed Mokhtar and living in Cairo, but her sea borne identity and debonaire free spirit still flicker in her bold and unabashed manner in spite of the years.

More recently, Soumayya Khashab seems to be leading with a very successful TV series in Ramadan of 2006 starring opposite Syrian megastar Gamal Soleiman, and opposite Abla Kamel in a series about, more pertinently, the infamous Alexandrian murderess duo Rayya and Sekinah.

Second in line are Nermine el Fiqqi and Ola Ghanem both Alexandrians in the tradition of the English Language School graduate with a certain sophistication to which another Alexandrian and for that matter El Nasr Girls’ College (EGC) recent graduate May Ezz el Din offers a direct foil, specializing rather in the more vulgar women’s roles, rendering them to perfection and taking giant steps on the way to stardom.

The seat of an upcoming career in cinema is still Cairo since life in Alexandria could posit a threat to visibility which is hardly possible in the less entrepreneurial city it is today. All in all, apart from a very few, most of the Alexandrians who made it in show business have acquired a life in the capital, the site of the industry.

The city that once gave the country its earliest generation of actors is perhaps busier today paving the way for a new age in film production that may well result in a new home-grown market for specializations including acting.

Versatility seems to be an inherent quality reflecting topography and climate and acting may well be an art at which Alexandrians could be particularly adept.

With a history already made and an industry established, the adventurous aspect has subsided even though the risk factor still remains, but it no longer posits the same threat of the unknown nor probably the romantic tremor of the leap into the danger of darkness.

Moving from their city by the sea was not so much a sacrificial offering to the Nile nor as disorienting as it may seem; rather, the call of cinema heralded the pioneers from Alexandria and gave birth to a long line of professionals in constant flux between city of origin and the new capital of cinema. Alexandria paved the way, filled a void, offered the talents and the road map and gradually an acting corps emerged from all around the country.

In a virtual curtain call honoring our Egyptian actors, we would be applauding our sultry doe-eyed Latino types as well as the sun-kissed brawny thug-type fettewa of the port area, to the cosmopolitan mix of nationalities and social backgrounds from the ugly Henriette Cohen to the curvaceous undulating Mediterranean-type female figure of Hind Rustom and others. All types once and still represented by Alexandrian amateur and professional actors of both genders, only to have initiated many more others from elsewhere around the country to do the same and people the scene. Alexandrian actors may be outnumbered by others but, clearly, the curtain has not come down.