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“The Cairo Station” by Chahine Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 24th, 2021


Music, movie, and other types of entertainment have been in existence of many centuries and with time, there has been a tremendous improvement in the quality of the content released to the public for entertainment purposes. The history of the movie industry, which is one of the main pillars of entertainment dates back to the early 1900’s. The United States America being one the world’s super powers and the leading nation in industrial development was the first nation that established the first film studio and since then there has been no looking back. Today the movie sector is one of the best paying in comparison to other sectors.

This research paper will give a brief study of the growth and development of the movie industry in Europe and other parts of the world, the paper will look at some of the ancient movie studios to be set up around the world and the impact they had on the society.

The main purpose of this paper however; is to review one of the first movies produced in African– ‘The Cairo Station.’ The movie is categorized as being one of the oldest movies to be produced. The paper will discuss the historical settings of the movie; it will look at the political and social settings during the time the movie was released. The theme of the movie and the message that it conveys in literature terms will also be critically discussed. In conclusion, the paper will give a brief of the key points that the paper will have looked at during the review of the movie.

The Growth and Development of the Movie Industry

The Hollywood

In 1911, the Nestor Studios was the first studio to be established in the Hollywood area in the US, the project was carried out by Al Christie who had been contracted by David Horsley for the assignment. Since then there has been have been great improvements in the industry. In 1917, the famous Charlie Chaplin studios were established and many productions were released under the label for year, the Superman TV series is one of the memorable movies/episodes to be released in the production house. The years between 1927 and 1948 were known as the “Golden Age of Hollywood”, the reason for this is that during this period most of movie production houses and theatres were established all over the US and mostly in Hollywood. Some of the production houses to be set up include; The Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox Theatres, Paramount Pictures, R.K.O and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Just but a few of the production these houses have greatly contributed to the rapid growth and development of the cinema industry in the world.

As the American movie industry was growing, other nations from Asia to Africa, Latin America to Europe were also following suit.


The India’s movie production has for any years adapted to the production of non-violent movies as compared to the Hollywood and Nollywood productions. The themes of Bollywood production are centered on love, romance, dance, and comedy productions. Unlike Hollywood where most of the movie productions are in English, the Bollywood productions are multi lingual productions and it is said that the industry records the highest number of ticket sales.


Africa, despite being categorized as a third world continent by the world super powers has not been left behind in the movie and entertainment industry. The rapid growth and development of the Internet and Communication Technology sector in the beginning of the 20th century provided a perfect platform for the Nollywood to enter into the profitable movie industry (Fawal, 4). Living the Bondage was the first Nigerian movie to be produced and since then the industry has taken the market by storm. Currently the sector is ranked third after Bollywood and Hollywood. Other production houses in the world are the Cinema of China and the Hong Kong Cinema.

Movie Review

The Cairo Station

This movie was written, directed, and produced by a renowned Egyptian movie guru, Chahine. For more than two decades after its production in 1958, the movie Cairo station was banned for viewing in Egypt because of its content. The reason for this is being the religion believes and principles of the nation, most of the nation’s population is deeply rooted in Islam which strongly opposed any “sexual explicit”, lustful, jealousy and obsession content. The rescreening of the movie in the 21st Century showed how classical and powerful the movie was in those days and the negative impact it would have had on the society if it were screened at the time of release. The cast members of the cast convey different message to the viewer because of the role they play.

The Setting of the Movie

The setting of the movie is at a railway station in Alexandria, Egypt during the late 1950’s. The production of the film was in black and white with English sub titles for the viewers outside Egypt. The main mode of transport during the period was the steam engine; the communication was fixed landline telephone. The movie was shot during summer period when the temperatures are extremely high. Another notable feature is the dress code, the out dated costumes that the female actors wore.

The Cast

The movie has different characters who tell a “different” story to the audience.

Mansour: In the movie, he is portrayed as a police commandant who is ruthless and brutal to the people of the town and the small-scale traders at the station. Using his juniors like sergeant Hassanain, the commandant arrested and prosecuted any woman who was found selling soft drinks to passengers at the station.

Hanuma: She is a soft drink vendor at the station and the leader of a group of women who do business at the station. Despite the fact that she is meant to walk down the aisle with a trade unionist and one of the wealthiest members of the community, Abou Seri, she is always harassed by the authorities. She has the appeal, allure and she uses her charm to convince travelers to buy drinks, a trick that worked all the time. In addition to that, the movie portrays her as a hardworking and industrious woman, something that not many women during the period could achieve (Fawal, 4).

Abou Seri: Abou Seri is an outgoing, charming, and courageous man. The working conditions for the employees during that period were unfavorable but in the movie, he has been portrayed as someone who is ready to fight for the rights of fellow workers. He particularly helped two of his co-workers, Rizq (who broke his leg) and Shaheen (who fractured his arm). He has come up with the idea of forming a workers union to address the plight of fellow workers; this is not easy to achieve thou since he is faced with many challenges from anti-reform workers. He has however secured a meeting with government officials on the eve of his wedding to present the grievances of the workers. This is an indication of a man who has a sense of humanity and is willing to fight for justice for all.

Tulba: In the movie, he is a crippled and the station beggar. He spends most of his time at the station and despite his conditions; the man is a secret admirer of one of the beauties at the station.

Zaqzouq: He is the chief soft drinks supplier who is always on the wrong side of the law for supplying drinks to the women vendors. He however manages to whether the storm and continue running his business.

The Political, Didactic and Aesthetic Motives for making the Film

Aesthetic Motives

The movie industry has been in existence from as early as 1901 and as each year passes, there an improvement in the quality of production as well as innovation. The film is produced in black and white motion pictures. This applies with past productions produced during the period. It is however, the quality and the fineness of the pictures that differentiates it from the rest. Another notable artistic feature of the movie is the use of subtitles for the non-Arab listening and understanding movie fans. In the days where discrimination was on the rise and colonialism was the order of the day, it was not easy for one community to embrace another. Most nations were holed in tribal cocoons and by Chahine opting to use sub titles, he was trying to convey the message to the world and project the life of the Egyptians to the world.

Educational Motives

In a society where the place of the women was meant to be in the “kitchen,” the producer was trying to pass a message to the “traditionalists” that it was time to embrace change. It was and in some regions, it is a taboo for an Arab/Muslim to show off any part of their bodies, it was mandatory for them to wear the veil to cover their faces and bodies. The producer has gone against this. Most of the actors starting from the leading actor Hanuma are seen without the traditional costumes. This was to educate the authorities not only in the nation. Also across the globe that it was, time to shed off the ancient cultural and traditional practices and usher change.

Social Motives

The main message that the producer is passing in relation to social set up of the society is that love if well cultivated can blossom and flourish no matter the political scenario of the moment. The case of Abou Seri and Hanuma is a clear indication of this. The couple has managed to weather all the storms that can their way from police harassment to arrest and torture of the civil servants.

Political Motives

The political stability of any nation determines the well being of the nation and the community in general. In the movie, two political faces are portrayed.

Police brutality and harassments has been pin pointed as being one form of political harassment. In the movie, there are many cases of police brutality against civilians, for instance the soft drinks vendor led by Hanuma were constantly harassed by the police commissioners for selling soft drinks to the commuters. Some of these women were arrested. Prosecution for doing crimes followed. This is indicative of oppression and abuse of human rights and freedom of expression and movement.

The civil workers were is oppressed by their seniors, illustration, when Abou Seri came up with the idea of forming a labor union, one of his senior threatened him that he will ensure that he gets fired, he said “Just as sure I am that this moustache is mine, I will ensure that I see u fired”. He however had the backing of his co-workers like Shaheen and Rizq who had been affected by poor working conditions. In 1958 when most nations were under the chains of slavery and neo colonialism, it was hard for anybody to stand up against the government. It is because of this that the movie was banned from all movie theatres in Egypt and most of the Arab world for more than two decades because the government of the day thought that the movie was unethical and unsuitable for its population. Had the situation been better (politically) may be the movie would have been the best seller in the region and on the international market too.

When the movie was banned from the screens for more than two decades, it had some social and economic effects on Egypt’s movie industry as well as that of most nations on the continent.

Social Effects

It is safe to say that the social development of most nations in Africa where Egypt is situated lag behind in social development as compared to their counterparts in the west. This is partly blamed on colonialism and neo colonialism but the root cause of this can be traced back to the cultural practices and beliefs of the people. Most African nations are conservative. they are not willing to try out other policies what otherwise is believed to be unethical., for instance in the modern day (21st Century) public show of love either through holding of hands or gentle kiss to a loved one is considered unethical and it can earn someone a rebuke from the society. In places where religion is strict, it can lead to prosecution. It is because of beliefs that the society is still behind (Shafik 8).

Economic Effects

As early as 1940, the movie industry in US and Europe was booming and this contributed greatly to economic growth and prosperity. By accepting entertainment as a form of income generating project, the US in particular progressed faster as compared to the other nations.

Cairo Station was a movie that would have launched Egypt on the international scene when it comes to music and entertainment. The government did not support this noble venture. Currently, Nigeria through Nollywood is more respected in the movie industry yet the nation released its first movie in 1992 – 34 years after the release of the Cairo Station. The reason for this is that the Nigerian government was ready and willing to embrace change and it saw an opportunity and it invested in it (Shafik, 8).

Summation / Conclusion

The movie industry is one industry that will be in existence of many years to come. The rapid growth and development can be attributed as one factor that has helped the movie and entertainment sector grow. In the modern age, one can access to a movie by a click of a button unlike the ancient days when all movies came on video tapes and other bulky storage mediums. The change in technology has also greatly improved on the quality of production that are available to the public, most movies come with digital sound settings as compared to when all the movies came in analog form. The future for the industry, irrespective the location looks bright and promising, however the different stake holders should join forces and sponsor quality productions that are not only entertaining but educative at the same time.

In the review of the movie Cairo Station, we have first looked at the introduction and the key points that the paper is going to look at; the paper has then discussed the growth and development of the movie sector with reference to Hollywood, Bollywood, and the Nollywood. The paper has then dealt with the main topic of study, review of the movie Cairo Station. Here, the paper has discussed various aspects of the movie; it has looked at the setting of the movie, place, and time of the shooting. In addition to that, the casts of the movie have been discussed; their role and characters have been analyzed in the paper.

For every movie, music, or short story that is produced, there is always a motive. There is a lesson that the production wants to convey to the public, the paper has then dealt with the political, educational, and artistic motives behind the production of the film. Discrimination and oppression of both the women and men are some of the notable aspects during the review. It has discussed the producer’s thoughts and views while shooting the movie. It is important to note that after the movie release to the public, the government for more than two decades banned it. It was deemed an “immoral” production for the “decent” Egyptian population. There were economic and social consequences that the society had to pay. The paper has looked at them by banning the film the nation and the continent lagged behind in catching up with the rest of the world in terms of social and economic development.

In conclusion, music, movies, and other forms of entertainment if used well can be used to build a better society that will have morally upright and responsible people; this is because it is believed that most content that is released is not suitable for the public. The rise in technology has increased the release of adult movies to the public, this is accessed by most underage youths, the movie, and cinema commissions of various nations should regulate the movie content being released to the movie halls. Internet filtering is another approach that can be used to regulate the content that is being accessed by most youths.

Works Cited

  1. Fawal, Ibrahim. “Youssef Chahine” London, British Film Institute 2001. ppr 4
  2. Shafik, Viola. “Popular Egyptian Cinema: Gender, Class, and Nation.” Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2007. ppr 8
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