Example of Film Critique Essay on The Cairo Station




“The Cairo Station” is a drama that is considered by many as one of the best Egyptian movies. The film director Youssef Chahine shot this movie in 1958 with such actors as Youssef Chahine, Hind Rostom, Farid Shawqi, and others. This film is an Italian neo-realism masterpiece that received highly positive feedback and reviews. “The Cairo Station” is focused on political and social issues. From first sight, it is possible to say that the film represents the relationship drama in the Arab country in 1958, but the picture is wider, as it includes the rapid change of the social experiencing.

This movie has a strong idea against the social hierarchy, and this problem has always touched people at all times because of its actuality. For 20 years, this film was prohibited because of the honest social and political situation with its problems described as it was in reality. However, in this review, I will focus on the idea that “The Cairo Station” deserves to be considered one of the greatest movies because of its honest representation of dramatic reality.

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Plot Synopsis

“The Cairo Station” reveals a lot based on three main characters. One of them is Abu Siri – a hard-working porter, the main goal of whom is to form a union to deal with the corruption, which is a great problem for the workers. The next character is Hannuma, a fiance of Abu Siri. She is always charming to sell to the train passengers the drinks. Zenawi, a news vendor who loves Hannuma, also plays a great role in the plot. However, he is too simple, and because of this, he suffers from his colleague's teasing. Zenawi is the protagonist in the movie. His story in the film is told retrospectively. Zenawi is a lame young man, and the newsstand owner feels pity for him and offers him a job as the newspaper seller in the Cairo train station.

When Kinaoui meets Hannuma, he becomes obsessed with her. Even though she is engaged to the luggage porter, she keeps flirting with Zenawi. Therefore, he decides to propose to her, but Hannuma rejects his plans for the future home and children. Such a response transforms Qinawi`s obsession with madness. After the young man learns about the murder where the killer was not found, he becomes inspired and decides to buy a knife and kill Hanauma. However, his plan is destroyed because the local police officers attempt to catch Hannuma and her friend, who is selling the drinks without a license. To deal with this situation, Hannuma asks Qinawi to hide her drinks, but after some time she does not return by herself and sends her friend instead to take them back.

Consequently, because of the darkness, Qinawi does not realize that he grabbed and stabbed with the knife other women. Moreover, he makes some more mistakes by hiding the body without the realization that the woman is still alive. In such a way, “The Cairo Station” is a complex movie that not only focuses on the tragedy that happened on the train station, but also shows a need for workers to create a union, the corruption problem, feminist ideas that arise against the attitude toward the women, police harassment, religious conservatism, and cultural changes. All these aspects create a unique atmosphere that makes the audience feel sadness, unlike the traditional ending in Arab movies.


The 1950s were difficult for the Egyptians because of the political revolution and frustration. At that time, religion played a huge role, and people were very conservative and sexually oppressed. However, the new situation brought numerous changes. The new generation became frustrated because of the religious taboos and close-minded positions provided by the older generation (Gordon, 2012). Hence, Canine decided to show that period honestly and used realism in his movie that in the end led to the realization of the social and political problems of that time. In general, this film was a chance to show real Egypt with its real problems that arose due to the new revolutionary regime.

The conflict in the film is concentrated on the characters` desire to make their lives better. In particular, Qinawi is trying to reach happiness in love, but he fails. At the same time, Abu Siri is reaching his goal by organizing the union. The romantic relationships with Hannuma are secondary to him because his main goal is to receive a political victory against corruption. From the moral perspective, “The Cairo Station” is emphasizing the class solidarity representation, particularly from how the community protects its rights, with its members working together to change their lives on a better side. Therefore, the main theme of “The Cairo Station” is the opposition against society`s power structures.

Visual Elements

In the film, the location is used to show the station as the urban experience center. In this station are moving various people of different ages, classes, gender, and race, and all these people together create the community with own social hierarchy. Police officers and canteen owners are at the top of society, while the illegal vendors and porters are at the end of this structure. Therefore, it can be seen clearly how people oppress and harm others even without the realization of their own actions. Zenawi's destiny is a bright result of society`s attitude. He is oppressed by his own colleagues, and even the woman he loves is teasing him and in the end, destroys all his dreams.

All these factors together make Qinawi commit such a terrible thing as murder. Moreover, “The Cairo Station” is a hard drama that is showing to the audience the modern urban existence with its violence, madness, and sexuality (Nafus, n.d.). One of the scenes is showing Hannuma, who is talking with the other woman that is also selling the drinks to the passengers. They are laughing and teasing each other about Qinawi`s sexual obsession and Hannuma`s fiance Abu Siri, who is doing everything to organize his workers in the unit.

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From this scene, it is possible to realize the gender factor and the place of women and men with disabilities in society. In addition, the audience can see a fight between two men, where one of them becomes hurt. Therefore, Abu Siri is arguing with a man who runs the bag-handing racket because of it. This scene is making the audience understand that at that time, there was a serious inter-class conflict between people who were for the union process and people who were against it.

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The violent and explosive gender relationships in the society of that time are expressed through the scenes with Hanauma. In one scene, Abu Siri beats her in front of the public because she disobeyed his order not to sell the drinks illegally. The abuse is stopped when Hannuma, by using her sexuality, is trying to distract her fiance by playing in the hide-and-seek. This scene brightly shows the attitude toward the women and their objectification. They are violated, whereas the attitude of the men is extremely aggressive. Therefore, the main solution to the problem is to use own sexuality to deal with men. Hence, another problem that is shown by the director is gender issues and their influence on society.

The Cairo Station is an early example of Arabic realism in the cinema. The evidence can be the use of the Cairo locations instead of the studio settings and the decline of the star casting system and the preferences toward the ethical shift. The main goal is to show the Cairo cultural and social context as close to reality as possible. The narration is shown due to the shot series inside of the station, and it is concentrated on the main entrance with the clock, the passengers and workers crowds, and the trains on the platforms.

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The multiple camera framing and positioning, the dynamic editing together make the audience focus on the relationship between the different characters and locations. The short scenes series are introducing various characters, their aspiration, and backgrounds. Chance tried to shoot the movie on a handheld camera, which is giving the wobbly effect. The film begins with the beautiful city opening scene, and the heart of the city is the train station. The director was trying not to show the common picture, but to make the audience see the city through the psychopath's eyes (Khairy, 2010). It was really difficult for Chahine to present the picture both from micro and macro perspectives, but he managed to do this professionally.


Overall, “The Cairo Station” is a very strong drama that deserves watching. The movie is giving a strong impression by its honesty and the realism of the described conditions. From the beginning, it is clear that the described situation between the characters is not the main one, because the film is very complex and from many details, it is possible to conclude the social and political situations of that time. This film stands against the social structure and hierarchy that were the main part of the society because of religion and culture. However, the political changes led to the social movements that are shown in this movie. Hence, the Cairo Station is a strong movie that is showing reality without any embellishments, and it must be seen because of its impressive and even cruel honesty.

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