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still from Horse of Mud (Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, EG 1971)

#1: Cimatheque - Alternative Film Center Cairo

This is Film! 2023 #1: Cimatheque - Alternative Film Center Cairo

In the first session of the public lecture series This is Film!, guest speaker Tamer El Said, one of the founders of Cimatheque – Alternative Film Centre Cairo, discusses the Cimatheque’s archive, and focuses on the work by pioneer Egyptian documentary filmmaker Atteyat Al-Abnoudy.

poster This is Film! 2023

Cimatheque is a multi-purpose cultural space in Cairo, Egypt, that provides resources, trainings, and programming for the independent filmmaking community. Other than hosting screenings, workshops and a lab for analogue practice, Cimatheque also houses an archive which collects and makes accessible stories of Egyptian cinematic heritage. Cimatheque has received countless donations of rare films, prints, and manuscripts spanning more than 60 years of Egyptian, Arab, and global alternative cinema history since it started operating in 2012.

A very important oeuvre within the Cimatheque’s collection is that of Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, a pioneer Egyptian documentary filmmaker whose work, from the 1970s to the early 2000s, is considered a landmark in the history of Arab documentaries.

In the summer of 2011, Al-Abnoudy donated her archive collection to the founders of Cimatheque while they were setting up their space. The donation opened a new horizon for the team to start a long journey with archive practice.

Introduction by Giovanna Fossati (Chief Curator at Eye and Professor of Film Heritage at the University of Amsterdam). Q&A in collaboration with the Master students of the This is Film! class at the University of Amsterdam.


Tamer El Said is a filmmaker and producer living between Berlin and Cairo. His filmography includes 17 films that received many local and international awards. Tamer founded Zero Production in 2007 to produce independent films, and he is also a founder and the Artistic Director of Cimatheque – Alternative Film Center in Cairo.


  • Horse of Mud (Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, EG 1971, 12’)

    In one of her earliest and most poignant works, veteran documentarian Atteyat Al-Abnoudy captures the dignity of Cairo's poor. In this beautifully photographed document, the primitive process of brick-making is examined, revealing the monotonous choreography of a nonetheless meaningful social task. The sad dance of their fluid movements intermingled with personal stories deeply resonates.

  • Sad Song Of Touha (Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, EG 1972, 12’)

    In many ways the sister film to Horse of Mud, Al-Abnoudy’s second film, Sad Song of Touha, was her graduation film at the Film School in Cairo. This documentary is a portrait of Cairo’s street performers. The artistry of this community of fire-eaters, child contortionists, and other performers is captured through the lens of Al-Abnoudy’s unobtrusive camera, accompanied by the spare and haunting narration provided by poet Abdel Rahman Al Abnoudy.

  • The Sandwich (Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, EG 1975, 12')

    The Sandwich is an experimental short that explores the idyllic rural province of “Abnoud.” In a village that seems to have escaped the passage of time, the softness of the film’s focus on a group of children freely playing in an open, green space is effectively altered by outside forces. Deftly combining elements of fiction and non-fiction, The Sandwich is perhaps the lesser-known yet more confident of Al-Abnoudy’s early films.

  • Permissible Dreams (Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, EG 1983, 31')

    Told through the eyes of Oum Said, a woman farmer living near the canal zone, Permissible Dreams captures a woman’s struggles with societal and gender inequality and the desire for a real education, but in typical Al-Abnoudy fashion, eschews ideological trappings or the fetishizing of Egypt’s poorer classes.

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147 min.

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This is Film! 2023

This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice is an annual public lecture series devoted to notable projects in the fields of film restoration and film heritage, with international guest speakers and film screenings.

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campain image This is Film! 2023 (Het tovertoneel (Segundo de Chomón, FR 1907))
still from Permissible Dreams (Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, EG 1983)
still from The Sandwich (Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, EG 1975)
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