Why Are Middle-Eastern/Arabic Movies Ignored?

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I chat on dozens of movie sites, and movies from this region are ignored. I must admit I have seen no more than a dozen or so, but a couple of years ago, after seeing a documentary on TCM, I saw an Egyptian movie (Chit-Chat On The Nile) and it was so different, yet so great. I remember seeing "Cairo '30" (which was probably the best, not my favorite that I mentioned above), "Cairo Station" and "There Is A Man In Our House". I can't remember the others, but I'm guessing they were probably directed by Henry Barakat, and starred Famen Hamama or Omar Sharif. Adapted or written by Mahfouz, who's shown to be one hell of a writer. I actually remember reading about him in Time Magazine when I was a kid. I also remember telling my aunt, who said, "He was kind of perverted" and went on to say how great Khalil Jibran was.

Last year, TCM started showing a documentary series called, "Women Make Film", and they were saying how many women were producers, directors, writers, and leading ladies, of course. I added movies to my watch-list.

There's some really good Iranian movies. It seems like half are very metaphysical. There's a movie within a movie within a movie. I can't remember the title, but there was one about this little girl actress, and it's done so well, I wasn't sure if it was part of the story, or if it was part of the movie they were filming (which we don't discover until around that time). Abbas Kiarostami is another name. "Close-Up" is an amazing idea, but "Taste of Cherry" is my favorite of his. Even the ending is unique and metaphysical.

What I've admired the most is the writing, regardless of who it is. A lot of social commentary, sometimes political, mixed in with love stories, and always searching for some kind of truth within the main characters. The "heavies" are always boorish and logical, while the third wheel (the single unmarried man) is always the romantic one. The women can't be described. Sensuous, but modest. Romantic, but trying to be responsible. Traditional at times, but constantly breaking with the past. I should point out most of the movies I have seen were from the 1950s and 60s.


"Dry Summer" is an excellent Turkish movie. Great story, acting, etc.

One thing that's common in all of them is the beautiful poetry. With the story, themes, writing, acting, cinematography, music - everything.

I also remember studying the first civilizations in school here in the US.. I still remember reading about the first city of Ur, Mesopotamia, the beginning of alphabet/writing (Sumerian), the wheel, and a million other inventions, such as irrigation, the Tigris and the Euphrates, the pyramids, the center of the three major Abrahamic religions, and this isn't ignored in the movies, even if it's not explicit. Sometimes you'll be watching a love story, and a couple meet by the pyramids, or someone tells their friend to meet them in Mosul, but of course the more intellectual movies mention politics, the history of societies, you name it.

I'm obsessed with chronology, capturing the zeitgeist (as opposed to the typical world events) in part to learn about history, trends, influence, comparing fiction with real life for its time, evolution of film, so I would start with the earliest movies, and move forward, to see how they got here at this point in history. I would see more, but finding subtitles can be tough, but there are some movies on YouTube (usually the popular ones, not the best) and one I really liked from 1972 that I saw yesterday after scrolling around Prime and seeing the interesting title, "Empire M", and it's a really unique movie.


Have you seen any?



To be fair, speaking from a quasi-US perspective, there's a general dismissal or ignorance about foreign films in general, as far as the general public goes so there's that.
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Anyway, as far as Middle Eastern films go, these are some notable ones I've seen...
  • Turtles Can Fly (2004) - Kurdish film from Iranian-Kurdish director/writer Bahman Ghobadi. Remember liking this a lot, but haven't seen it in a looong time.
  • Paradise Now (2005) - personal favorite from Palestine. Director and co-writer Hany Abu-Assad is Palestinian, and the two lead actors, Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman, are Arab-Israeli and Arab-Palestinian respectively. Strongly recommend this one.
  • Persepolis (2007) - animated film from France/Iran about growing up during the Iranian Revolution. Co-directed and co-written by Iranian-French Marjane Satrapi
  • The Time That Remains (2009) - international production from Palestinian director and writer Elia Suleiman. Stars himself and Palestinian Saleh Bakri.
  • A Separation (2011) - Great Iranian drama from Iranian director and writer Asghar Farhadi. Two lead actors, Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi, are Iranian as well.
  • The Attack (2012) - international production, including Qatar and Egypt. Director and co-writer Ziad Doueri is French-Lebanese. Another co-writer, Yasmina Khadra, is Algerian, and the lead actors, Ali Suliman and Reymond Amsalem, are Arab-Palestinian and Israeli. Pretty good film.
  • Mustang (2015) - Not sure how much it counts as Middle-Eastern, but this one is from Turkish-French director and co-writer Deniz Gamze Ergüven. Most of the main cast is Turkish.
  • Under the Shadow (2016) - Moody and spooky film from British-Iranian director and writer Babak Anvari. Lead actress Narges Rashidi is of Iranian descent.
  • Aerials (2016) - Emirati scifi film from S.A. Zaidi. Can't find anything about where the main cast is from. Aside from some spooky sound design, this one's pretty bad.
  • Wajib (2017) - Palestinian film from Palestinian writer/director Annemarie Jacir, with a Palestinian cast. Loved this one.

Aside from Aerials, I would strongly recommend the others.



Please Quote/Tag Or I'll Miss Your Responses
To be fair, speaking from a quasi-US perspective, there's a general dismissal or ignorance about foreign films in general, as far as the general public goes so there's that.

I was speaking in terms of movie fans, like those of us who love them so much they'll sign up to message boards. I see European, Japanese, but never Middle-Eastern or Arabic speaking countries in North Africa, like Egypt.


I've seen "Persepolis", and it's the only anime I liked. I'm trying to look for the early movies. Speaking of a movie from 1960, I just saw a great one, "The River of Love", but the translations aren't great, and some were left off because of politics/history (which I think is quite important), but she the uploader didn't want to be "controversial", which really angers me.



I've spent a lot of my adult life basically dissenting and trying to spread the word or the facts of those who are underdogs, underappreciated, etc., - it's my way of trying to get justice for them, which essentially will come back to me or at least having an opportunity to talk about my interests. Even with movies - I try to recommend ones I think people haven't seen, as opposed to my favorites, many of which are popular with the movie buffs.



Anyway, I'll paste the movie link. This isn't my favorite, but it's very good.




The trick is not minding
It wasn’t until Paradise Now was released back in 2006 that I even thought of them. I still haven’t watched many from the Middle East or many Arabic countries in general.

It’s a big reason why I Chose Chahine as my director for the 2021 Challenge. Netflix has 12 of his films available, so I went through them this past year. I wasn’t disappointed either, although I wouldn’t ever consider him among my favorites or anything.



I was speaking in terms of movie fans, like those of us who love them so much they'll sign up to message boards. I see European, Japanese, but never Middle-Eastern or Arabic speaking countries in North Africa, like Egypt.


I've seen "Persepolis", and it's the only anime I liked. I'm trying to look for the early movies. Speaking of a movie from 1960, I just saw a great one, "The River of Love", but the translations aren't great, and some were left off because of politics/history (which I think is quite important), but she the uploader didn't want to be "controversial", which really angers me.



I've spent a lot of my adult life basically dissenting and trying to spread the word or the facts of those who are underdogs, underappreciated, etc., - it's my way of trying to get justice for them, which essentially will come back to me or at least having an opportunity to talk about my interests. Even with movies - I try to recommend ones I think people haven't seen, as opposed to my favorites, many of which are popular with the movie buffs.



Anyway, I'll paste the movie link. This isn't my favorite, but it's very good.

I think it might have to do with exposition. Movie fans are more exposed to foreign films from, say, France, Italy, Japan, China... than they are to films from Middle-Eastern countries. Why that is? Maybe that's why your asking those questions. I have little to no knowledge about how old they're respective industries are, but maybe it also has to do with that. I know that Farhadi and Kiarostami are names a lot of cinephiles bring up. Maybe not to the same extent of, say, Bergman or Wong Kar-wai, but well.



Professional horse shoe straightener
They're not ignored. They are spoken about less though.

I have championed Makmhalbaf, Pahani, Asghar Farhadi and Kiarostami many times on this website. But their films are harder to find for the average person.

Chahine is a big blind spot for me admittedly. And yes Women Make Film is amazing. I own the Blu Ray. There are so many films mentioned in that documentary that are hard or impossible to find though.

Those who like more modern films can also find something to like:

Papicha
Wadjda
Ajami
Omar
The Stoning of Soraya M

Makmhalnaf's daughter has also made a couple of good ones in 'The Apple' and 'Blackboards'



That they're harder to get is certainly true, but ultimately just a reframing of the question: why are they harder to get? Because there is less interest in them, presumably. If the interest (and with it, money) is there, people would find a way.

I don't know enough about the industry to say for sure, but it seems reasonable to guess that it's a mix of a couple of things:
1) Western audiences wanting at least a floor of production quality that the film industry in some of these places may struggle to meet, at least sometimes.

2) Subtle cultural differences that cause stories to feel different in difficult to define ways.
The second thing is tricky, but I think it matters a lot: some of my best and worst movie experiences have been with films that disrupt the normal rhythms of story I've come to expect, consciously or otherwise. I can see lots of films from England or Japan or Mexico and they still, for the most part, "feel" like the stories I'm accustomed to, presumably because a lot of those filmmakers were raised on a lot of the same stories I was. Culturally Western, in other words. Film industries removed from that will develop different rhythms and customs. Differences in pacing and plot trajectory and all that.

To me, that's more a feature than a bug at this point, as there's nothing worse than being "ahead" of a story or reading cues that were subtle decades ago but just feel lazy now (oh, that lady threw up, she's having a baby. Oh, that guy's totally gonna die because it's the one thing that would propel this other character out of their comfort zone).

These are really broad answers, of course, that would apply to other parts of the world, too, so I'd love to hear guesses from people with more direct knowledge of the places in question.



Professional horse shoe straightener
I wonder if you showed the average 'person who likes movies' a film like 'Capernaum', then showed them 'The Emoji movie' ....would they wonder why one is infinitely more accessible than the other?



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Yes, the chicken and egg. English is widely known, so those movies will always have more availability, which can lead to the possibility for interest. I would think more movie buffs would like at least a couple. Hell, just for curiosity.



I think part of it is celebrity. People know Bergman is Swedish, but probably can't name 5 other directors from Sweden. Japan and Kurosawa, even Abbas Kiarostami and Iran.



A guy on another site (from Turkey) said he has no interest because he knows the culture.. But most don't know it, which you'd think would be alluring.



Can you expound on what you mean by that? Scarlett I mean. I can interpret that a few ways but I'd rather ask than guess.

Ultimately I think an underappreciated part of this stuff--and the following logic applies to most things, particularly things like food--that the answer comes from understanding that many consumers actually value predictability in and of itself. That obviously makes a lot more sense when it comes to something like food (or other necessities and things with clear practical value) than it does in art, but I think that idea probably has a lot to do with this.



Yes, the chicken and egg. English is widely known, so those movies will always have more availability, which can lead to the possibility for interest.
Yup. All culture is to some degree self-reinforcing, since it is both influenced and influencer.

I think part of it is celebrity. People know Bergman is Swedish, but probably can't name 5 other directors from Sweden. Japan and Kurosawa, even Abbas Kiarostami and Iran.
Still chicken-egg, but yes. This goes to the predictability thing.

I was thinking about this just yesterday when I saw an ad for No Time to Die. I remember thinking about how it was basically guaranteed to make hundreds of millions of dollars across the world, and thinking about how that was simply because a lot of people trusted the Bond brand to deliver a certain kind of thing that those people knew they would enjoy, and that this relative certainty was, in fact, the majority of the product.

A guy on another site (from Turkey) said he has no interest because he knows the culture.. But most don't know it, which you'd think would be alluring.
Right, I think that's usually the better posture. Not always, of course. I don't mind the cinematic equivalent of comfort food sometimes. But I can't really wrap my head around the total lack of curiosity required to never be intrigued by something different.



I imagine the state of film preservation in those countries plays a role in why older films are not as readily available.



Professional horse shoe straightener
Can you expound on what you mean by that? Scarlett I mean. I can interpret that a few ways but I'd rather ask than guess.

Ultimately I think an underappreciated part of this stuff--and the following logic applies to most things, particularly things like food--that the answer comes from understanding that many consumers actually value predictability in and of itself. That obviously makes a lot more sense when it comes to something like food (or other necessities and things with clear practical value) than it does in art, but I think that idea probably has a lot to do with this.
Sure, I was responding to this:

why are they harder to get? Because there is less interest in them, presumably.
There is only less interest in them because Western audiences are fed films that make money as a priority over films of high quality that won't make as much money.



Please Quote/Tag Or I'll Miss Your Responses
I wonder if you showed the average 'person who likes movies' a film like 'Capernaum', then showed them 'The Emoji movie' ....would they wonder why one is infinitely more accessible than the other?

I never saw "The Emoji Movie" but I did like "Capernaum". I hardly ever use emojis - I'm still trying to learn more English with my paperback dictionary near me right now.



Please Quote/Tag Or I'll Miss Your Responses
Some notes from a 2020 Morning Consult article, which came out just as the South Korean film Parasite was popular:
A Jan. 23-24 Morning Consult survey of 2,200 U.S. adults found that when compared to other genres and types of films, foreign language films — defined for the survey as films that are produced outside of the United States where the primary language spoken is not English — were the least popular, with a net favorability (the share who felt favorably minus the share who felt unfavorably) of minus 25.
The survey, which has a margin of error of 2 percentage points, asked the 1,116 adults who had an unfavorable view of foreign language films why they disliked the genre. More than half (54 percent) cited the difficulty of reading subtitles while trying to follow on-screen action as a major reason why they were not a fan of the genre, while 50 percent said they did not like watching films where no English is spoken. The margin of error for that subsample is 3 points.
Experts say U.S. audiences for foreign cinema have typically been small, with Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University, citing access to arthouse cinema as a major factor that may limit audiences to residents of major cities and dedicated cinephiles.
And for marketers and distributors, there’s little financial motivation for changing the status quo. “The cost of marketing and distributing theatrically a foreign language film is maybe prohibitive and not cost-effective at all,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore Inc.



Professional horse shoe straightener
Some notes from a 2020 Morning Consult article, which came out just as the South Korean film Parasite was popular:
A Jan. 23-24 Morning Consult survey of 2,200 U.S. adults found that when compared to other genres and types of films, foreign language films — defined for the survey as films that are produced outside of the United States where the primary language spoken is not English — were the least popular, with a net favorability (the share who felt favorably minus the share who felt unfavorably) of minus 25.
The survey, which has a margin of error of 2 percentage points, asked the 1,116 adults who had an unfavorable view of foreign language films why they disliked the genre. More than half (54 percent) cited the difficulty of reading subtitles while trying to follow on-screen action as a major reason why they were not a fan of the genre, while 50 percent said they did not like watching films where no English is spoken. The margin of error for that subsample is 3 points.
Experts say U.S. audiences for foreign cinema have typically been small, with Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University, citing access to arthouse cinema as a major factor that may limit audiences to residents of major cities and dedicated cinephiles.
And for marketers and distributors, there’s little financial motivation for changing the status quo. “The cost of marketing and distributing theatrically a foreign language film is maybe prohibitive and not cost-effective at all,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore Inc.
Yeah it doesn't surprise me at all. It's just a little frustrating when I know so many people would love to discover so many films already mentioned in this thread. But all they have is Netflix, Prime and cable TV. I suppose it's up to them to do what they want with their time and money. But if you don't know something is out there, you don't miss it.



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Yeah it doesn't surprise me at all. It's just a little frustrating when I know so many people would love to discover so many films already mentioned in this thread. But all they have is Netflix, Prime and cable TV. I suppose it's up to them to do what they want with their time and money. But if you don't know something is out there, you don't miss it.

You said it perfectly. "But if you don't know something is out there, you don't miss it". I think this is a big reason I join so many message boards - to give and receive. It's the same reason I value (any kind) higher education so people can communicate with each other easily. I think the purpose of people is to help each other, and one major way (and what's most important to me) is to introduce people to things they might not have ever run across, but things they'd actually like. I just gave away two handfuls of burnt DVDs to a guy I know, and told him if he didn't like them to just give them to someone else.



This actually happened to me in middle school. The guy sitting next to me made me some cassettes of The Doors, and I did the same. I lived on a cul-de-sac with a lot of guys my age, and pretty soon, the entire school was listening to classic rock, so people can change the world. It might not be quantifiable, but the next time you talk to a stranger who likes a rare movie or band you do, it could have been due to your effort. History has shown one man can do a lot.



Yeah it doesn't surprise me at all. It's just a little frustrating when I know so many people would love to discover so many films already mentioned in this thread. But all they have is Netflix, Prime and cable TV. I suppose it's up to them to do what they want with their time and money. But if you don't know something is out there, you don't miss it.
It's worth mentioning that many of these services have tons of foreign films, from pretty much everywhere, but maybe they are not as promoted as others that might seem more popular or mainstream. I mean, you can type "Middle Eastern films" on Netflix or Prime and it will bring you lots of options. My point is that some of these films are out there but, to your point, if you don't know what you're looking for, it's hard to get there.



I edited this post to include Wajib, which I somehow missed, but is probably my second or third favorite from this bunch.

Anyway, as far as Middle Eastern films go, these are some notable ones I've seen...
  • Turtles Can Fly (2004) - Kurdish film from Iranian-Kurdish director/writer Bahman Ghobadi. Remember liking this a lot, but haven't seen it in a looong time.
  • Paradise Now (2005) - personal favorite from Palestine. Director and co-writer Hany Abu-Assad is Palestinian, and the two lead actors, Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman, are Arab-Israeli and Arab-Palestinian respectively. Strongly recommend this one.
  • Persepolis (2007) - animated film from France/Iran about growing up during the Iranian Revolution. Co-directed and co-written by Iranian-French Marjane Satrapi
  • The Time That Remains (2009) - international production from Palestinian director and writer Elia Suleiman. Stars himself and Palestinian Saleh Bakri.
  • A Separation (2011) - Great Iranian drama from Iranian director and writer Asghar Farhadi. Two lead actors, Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi, are Iranian as well.
  • The Attack (2012) - international production, including Qatar and Egypt. Director and co-writer Ziad Doueri is French-Lebanese. Another co-writer, Yasmina Khadra, is Algerian, and the lead actors, Ali Suliman and Reymond Amsalem, are Arab-Palestinian and Israeli. Pretty good film.
  • Mustang (2015) - Not sure how much it counts as Middle-Eastern, but this one is from Turkish-French director and co-writer Deniz Gamze Ergüven. Most of the main cast is Turkish.
  • Under the Shadow (2016) - Moody and spooky film from British-Iranian director and writer Babak Anvari. Lead actress Narges Rashidi is of Iranian descent.
  • Aerials (2016) - Emirati scifi film from S.A. Zaidi. Can't find anything about where the main cast is from. Aside from some spooky sound design, this one's pretty bad.
  • Wajib (2017) - Palestinian film from Palestinian writer/director Annemarie Jacir, with a Palestinian cast. Loved this one.

Aside from Aerials, I would strongly recommend the others.