These days, film posters are a dime a dozen: glossy hi-fidelity studio commissioned Photoshop jobs that often lack artistic flare or genuine storytelling. Small publishing house CentreCentre is now seeking to remind us of the true art of movie posters, specifically by turning to Egyptian film posters made between 1938 and 1996. The collection, titled Moving Pictures Painted, has over 200 images from Egypt during this time, inviting audiences into an industry, culture and history often neglected by the West.
“The project all started with a conversation between myself and a poster collector named Thomas Hill, who has an archive of around 100,000 posters,” says Patrick Fry, CentreCentre’s founder. The more time Patrick spent with Thomas’ collection, the more he began to admire the skill and style of the artists behind the posters from Egypt. “This is far from a collection of foreign curiosities, they are highly accomplished masterful posters,” Thomas says. “I feel they deserve to be seen and celebrated.” Accompanying the beautifully illustrated full-colour posters are three essays on the history of Egyptian cinema and poster making, allowing readers to unearth this corner of design history.
“It’s a wonderful reference for its illustrative style and lettering,” Patrick adds. “It has been a big education for myself, a non-Arabic speaker who is fairly obsessed with typography and lettering, as there are so many nuances to the lettering contained in this book that I am only beginning to understand.” Even for those slightly less interested in the typographic elements of the poster, the collection does a masterful job of simply shedding light on Egyptian cinema itself, thanks to the writing contributions of film critic Joseph Fahim and art historian Christiane Gruber.
This wasn’t a voyeuristic project, either. Patrick was at pains to do “great justice” to the films and the artists of these posters, rigorously researching the history of Egyptian cinema and presenting them in a way which was respectful and educational. “This was only possible thanks to the help of a handful of experts, such as Moe Elhossieny of Arabic Design Archive who kindly made further introductions to Egyptian writers,” says Patrick. “Haytham Nawar was also an enormous help, talking me through the importance of certain poster designers, films and all the big gaps we needed to fill.” Patrick even gathered collectors around the world, including Qatar National Library, The American University in Cairo, University of Michigan and Yale University as just some of the many contributors to the full collection.
“Ultimately it was a balancing act between a visually exciting collection and one that had rigour and respect for its context,” Patrick says. “The collection had to primarily represent Egyptian cinema, not Hollywood, but as this book would hopefully help spread the word about this wonderful tradition, I felt that the Egyptian translation of the Hollywood poster style could become a segue for Western audiences.” Flicking through the book really is a great feast for the eyes, as the reader is guided through a chronological journey through Egyptian cinema, history and politics. “I hope this book will help preserve and celebrate everything that the Egyptian hand-drawn poster technique offered,” says Patrick.
GalleryCentreCentre: Moving Pictures Painted (Copyright © CentreCentre, 2023)
CentreCentre: Moving Pictures Painted (Copyright © CentreCentre, 2023)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.