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In this groundbreaking work, film scholar Viola Shafik examines popular and commercial movies from Egypt's film industry, including a number of the biggest box-office hits widely distributed in Egypt and the Arab world. Turning a critical eye on a major player in Egyptian cultural life, Shafik examines these films against the backdrop of the country's overall socio-political development, from the emergence of the film industry in the 1930s, through the Nasser and Sadat eras, up to the era of globalization. In unearthing the largely contradictory meanings conveyed by different films, "Popular Egyptian Cinema" examines a broad array of themes, from gender relations to feminism, Islamism and popular ideas about sexuality and morality. Focusing on representations of religious and ethnic minorities - primarily Copts, Jews, and Nubians - Shafik draws out issues such as the formation of the Egyptian nation, cinematic stereotyping, and political and social taboos. Shafik also considers pivotal genres, such as melodrama, realism, and action film, in relation to public debates over highbrow and lowbrow culture and in light of local and international film criticism.