Rare collection sheds new light on golden age of Arab cinema

Illustration courtesy of the Arab American National Museum The poster for the 1991 movie “Kit Kat” will be part of “Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema” June 1 to Sept 24 at the Arab American National Museum.

Illustration courtesy of the Arab American National Museum
The poster for the 1991 movie “Kit Kat” will be part of “Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema” June 1 to Sept 24 at the Arab American National Museum.

Exhibition brings collection of vintage film posters and memorabilia to AANM

DEARBORN – Since the 1970s, Abboudi Bou Jaoudeh of Beirut has been scouring cinema houses in search of long-forgotten Arab cinema posters – salvaging hard-to-find print media dating back to the early 1930s. Drawing from Jaoudeh’s collection of over 2,000 posters, “Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema” offers visitors a snapshot of the golden age of Arab cinema from June 1 to Sept. 24 at the Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave.

The golden age of Arab cinema started in Cairo when sound was first introduced to film and took place alongside Hollywood’s “talkies” boom. From the 1930s through the 1970s, celebrities like Abdel Halim Hafez and Omar Sharif starred in films across genres – from musicals to dramatic thrillers – packing cinema houses in the bustling metropoles of Cairo and Beirut.

“Safar” highlights the themes of exoticization, sexuality and danger in the context of popular poster design and illustration styles of the era. The collection challenges western stereotypes of the Arab world, while revealing the influence of early Hollywood on Arab cinema.

The exhibition is free with museum admission: $8 for adults; $4 for students, seniors and children ages 6 to 12; and free to children 5 and under and museum members.

Illustration courtesy of the Arab American National Museum The poster for the 1971 movie “Watch Out for Zou Zou” will be part of “Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema” June 1 to Sept 24 at the Arab American National Museum.

Illustration courtesy of the Arab American National Museum
The poster for the 1971 movie “Watch Out for Zou Zou” will be part of “Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema” June 1 to Sept 24 at the Arab American National Museum.

The opening reception on June 3 coincides with the 12th Arab Film Festival at Cinetopia, providing festival attendees a unique opportunity to contextualize emerging films from the Arab world with the films and poster designs of their predecessors. The reception is free and open to the public, and will feature a special speaker, a gallery stroll with Detroit Symphony Orchestra performers and light refreshments.

“Safar” was first exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 2014 as part of The Arab British Centre’s biennial Safar Film Festival. The exhibition includes posters for box office hits “Cairo Station” (1958), “Watch Out for Zou Zou” (1972) and “Terrorism and the Kebab” (1993). Also from Jaoudeh’s collection is a specially curated selection of film brochures and photographs from Beirut- and Amsterdam-based artist Mounira Al Sohl.

For full Arab Film Festival schedule, details and registration, click here.

This exhibition is made possible in part by Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts and The Kresge Foundation.