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By Dina Mahmoud & Dr. Swapna Koshy

Unprecedented social changes have transformed the global perspective of the Arab world. Saudi Arabia has opened itself to cinema and Saudi women directors are presenting their works at international festivals. Dubai had already made a mark a decade back with a hugely popular International Film Festival. But film is not new to the Arab world, the behemoth Egyptian film industry has mesmerised Arab audiences for almost a century. Early Egyptian film was very much like its western counterpart. Themes were varied and women played a major part and took on professional roles including that of doctors and lawyers. Dressed in western clothes, unveiled and ‘modern’, the women featured in film in the 1950’s mirrored relaxed societal norms. But in the early years of the twenty first century female characters portrayed on screen are marginalised, alienated and struggling for bare necessities. They are brutalised by husbands, illiterate and inconsequential. During the Arab Spring revolution women played a vital part in powering the revolution. The rise and fall in the fortunes of women are reflected in the films produced too. Film thus becomes the final draft of history.

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