Monday, July 14, 2008

Egyptian Poster Variations

Documenting Egyptian Poster Varieties

People collect things for a variety of reasons. They collect film posters sometimes because they need to make affordable investments. Sometimes they collect them because they like the graphic art, and sometimes these two motivations are combined. I like to collect Egyptian posters because they are beautiful but fragile remnants of a colorful history.

Whatever the reason for its existence, a film poster collection has more meaning if the collector is aware of the subtle variations that often exist for posters advertising the same film title. Film posters can vary because they were made for different reasons, made at different times, made in different locations, made with different equipment, or made with different designs.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of owning a film poster
collection is the research that goes into documenting and understanding these variations.

In Egypt, film posters sometimes change because the companies that distribute the films change. This may involve only a minor change in poster appearance such as blocking out the name of the old distributor in the bottom border and overprinting the name of the new one. This would happen in cases where the lithograph plates used by a former distributor are still available to the new distributor.

In other cases, if the new distributor no longer has access to the old distributor's printing plates (this seems to be the most common case), he will have a new plate made that resembles the old one as closely as possible. In both cases, artists draw the poster designs directly on the printing plate. Often the signed names of the artist or artists will be different for the old and new versions, but obviously at least one of the artists is a copyist.

Here is an example of a poster variation for an Egyptian film:

Version A

Version B

Posters for the 1967 Zoheir Bekir film A Crazy Man's Love Affairs, starring Farid Shawqi and Nadia Lutfi

Information printed on the posters tells us that this transition involved changes in distributor, printer and artist. The distributor for Version A was The General Company for Film Marketing and Distribution, while the distributor for version B was The General Egyptian Institute for Cinema. The printer of the style A poster was The H.H. Gasour Arabic Cinema Printing Company, the printer for the Style B poster was the Al-Nasr Printing Company. The artist for the Style A poster was Gasour himself, the owner of the printing company. The Style B poster is not signed by an artist. Based on the loss of detail in the Style B version, I conclude that the Style A is the earlier version, but no printing dates are given on either poster so I don't know exactly how much time passed between the two versions.

Here is a similar pair of poster variations for an Egyptian film:

Version A

Version B

Posters for the 1996 Samir Seif film Of Days and Dogs, starring Nour El-Sherif and Dalal Abdel Aziz

In this case the distributor did not change. The same distributor may have needed to print more posters after reusing his first litho plate for something else. Style A is signed by the artist Sami, and Style B is signed by the artist Walid Wahig. Neither poster tells us the printer name. Distribution was done by two companies, Farid Shawqi's Artists Union Company and Mohammad Hassan Ramzi's Nasr Films Company. The fact that two distribution companies were involved may explain the existence of two poster types, but if so I do not know how or why.

These varieties have nothing to do with anything that would be called a "rerelease." They were apparently brought about because of a change in distributor in one case and a poster stocking and printing requirement in the other.

I don't think "rereleases" as we know them in the US play much of a role in the Egyptian film industry. I've seen Egyptian distribution contracts where distribution dates were specified, but the ones I've seen haven't been for rereleases of films.

There is plenty of variation in these Egyptian film
posters, but it seems to be complex, small-scale and somewhat irregular.

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