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Cinema Salwa

Mahmoud Massad
An elaborate pink painted film poster featuring a White women with vibrant red hair next to an Egyptian man with a mustache. Several other, smaller painted people adorn the bottom of the poster.

Khamis, a 55 year old man has worked as a film-projectionist at one of the oldest film theaters - Cinema Salwa - in the second largest city in Jordan, Zarqa.

After the closure of Cinema Salwa that stood strong since the 1950’s, Khamis has no other choice but to join his family business - a herbal shop. He was rewarded for all the years of hard work at the cinema, with the film projector that he operated for decades and the remaining old film reels and posters.

By becoming a herbalist, he needs to adapt to the game of a new trade and to learn the secrets behind those recipes that have remedied people for centuries. in addition to this knowledge he needed a look that matched his new trade - to grow a long beard and wear a turban for the first time.

He leafs through his personal archive in his basement, unveiling the underestimated treasures that he holds of films posters and reels. Some of them might be the last ones remaining. Through each unique poster he unfolds, he opens a chapter of discovery into the element of success of that film. We meet face to face some of the legends behind mastering the form of Egyptian cinema.

Over the course of 3 decades, through his projector Khamis witnessed the depreciation of film quality with every movie he screened. Being a herbalist now he could tell the magical recipe behind great films. The glory of old Egyptian films will always remain engraved as a beautiful memory of legendary stars who really knew their craft.!

Since it's hard to pinpoint the real reasons behind the deterioration of Egyptian cinema, then the wiser option is to dig to find the reasons for the success of these old films.

Unfortunately, for decades Egypt has failed to archive its own films and less than 50% of the archive remains. Some have been sold to individuals residing outside of Egypt and others are unaccounted for, or voluntarily burned and trashed- either for ignorance of the value of this heritage and others in the name of faith. In fact, Khamis himself has damaged part of his collection of posters and pictures that contained nudity- which doesn’t match his newfound faith as a herbalist.

Most importantly, what will be the future of the scattered archive between individual collectors like Khamis and others in the Arab world. If it isn’t important to preserve this historical archive at this moment in time, at least it must be for generations yet to come so they can see how life and cinema were before