Bringing the history of Arab cinema to Wikipedia

Since its creation, film has long since been used to transmit stories, ideas, imagery, and feelings. An ethnologist or sociologist would also identify it as a cultural artifact, as film is ideal for both reflecting a given culture as well as impacting it. For some, film provides a rare chance to evade the censorship and control of their country, for others it is a way to make a statement on a topic near and dear to their heart. As such, it’s no surprise that Dr. Pamela Krayenbuhl’s students at the Northwestern University in Qatar chose to focus on the History of Film.

The cinema of the Middle East has no one form, structure, or style, as it encompasses films from all of the countries and cultures in the Arab world. In its inception, Arab cinema was mostly an imitation of Western cinema, however it has and continues to constantly change and evolve with the times. According to scholars such as Amal Elgamal, Egypt is especially a pioneer as it was able to create a sustained film industry at a time when other parts of the Arab world had only been able to sporadically produce feature-length films due to limited financing. Elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East, film production was scarce until the late 1960s and early 1970s when filmmakers began to received funding and financial assistance from state organizations. This was during the post-independence and is when most Arab cinema took root. Most films produced at that time were funded by the state and contained a nationalistic dimension. These films helped to advance certain social causes such as independence and other social, economic, and political agendas.

Students in the class also took the time to create an article on the cinema of Qatar noting that it’s a relatively young industry that evolved as part of the country’s plans to develop different local sectors with the aim of accumulating international recognition and status. Many major steps were taken to implement a long-term plan to develop the infrastructure as well as give opportunities to local talents to have a platform that establishes their presence within the film industry with the support of the Doha Film Institute, and their various grants, workshops, and festivals.

Students and educators have a wealth of knowledge that’s surpassed only by their passion to learn and teach, two things that are incredibly well suited to the task of Wikipedia editing as an educational assignment. If you’re interested in taking part, visit to gain access to free tools, online trainings, and printed materials.

Header image in public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


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