The Search for a Better World: The Return to the Great Homeland, Ibrahim and Badr Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Amma (Lama) and the first Arab-Egyptian silent film, A Kiss in the Desert, May 1927

The truth is that the presence of foreigners as filmmakers and artists was the beginning of the film industry in Egypt, but the matter with the Lama brothers began to take a new direction, more profound and influential, as foreigners became the ones coming from Arab countries, or those of Arab origin, with what this means from the unity of culture. And the language, and what it also means that their clear goal is to make Egyptian films that target the Egyptian and Arab audience… and Egypt has become – as befits it – the Hollywood of the East”.

Ahmed Youssef The Seventh Art (October 1998)


Introduction: Movie Generator


In this article about two pioneers of contemporary Arab cinema and in my other articles published since 1984, I tried to contribute in a modest way to the commemoration of the pioneers of the modern Palestinian Bethlehemian renaissance in the small homeland and in the diaspora. I hope that this gift of mine will motivate people to research, excavate and write about the heritage of Bethlehem before its imminent loss…!! I ask the honorable readers to provide me with any information that will help me shed light on different aspects of the life of the two brothers Ibrahim and Badr Abdullah the Blind Lama) and their films.

It should be noted that the official birth of the cinema was on December 28, 1895, when the brothers (Auguste and Louis Lemmerer) screened ten films, each of which does not exceed fifty feet and takes between one and two minutes. (Grand Café) Paris, and (Georges Millais) is credited with directing the first fully-fledged theatrical film (Journey to the Moon) in 1903 and in the same year 1903 it was followed by (Auden Burns) and (The Life of an American Fireman), and he played (Auden Burns) In his movie (The Great Train Robbery), he played a leading role in creating “real cinematic art. In 1927, talking cinema began to appear with the movie (The Jazz Singer) for the Warner Brothers Company, despite the strong opposition of some actors and directors (Charlie Chaplin). ) .

Which is the first Arabic feature film: “A Kiss in the Desert” or “Laila”?

74 years ago, on May 5, 1927, the first Arab-Egyptian silent film was shown in the “Cosmograph” cinema in Alexandria, entitled “A Kiss in the Desert,” directed by Ibrahim Lama, while his brother Badr acted and starred, and historians of Arab cinema consider this film The first Arab feature film in the history of Egyptian Arab cinema, that is, six months before Aziza Amir’s “Layla”, although Egyptians consider the latter the first silent Egyptian film for purely Egyptian national considerations. 9

Khaled Elbatrawy says in this regard:

Which is the first born cinematic on the Arab screen? Which is the number one Egyptian movie in the history of Egyptian cinema: Is it the movie (Laila) produced by Aziza Amir, owner of the “ISIS Film” company, which was shown at the “Metropole” cinema in Cairo on November 16, 1927, or is it a movie?

A Kiss in the Desert, produced by Ibrahim and Badr Lama (The Blind), owners of the Condor Film Company, which was shown at the Mohamed Ali cinema in Alexandria, six months and ten days before the first film was shown in May 1927… Critics and historians of Egyptian cinema decided. It is the movie (Laila) … on two grounds: First, that she (Aziza Amir) showed her movie in Cairo, the capital, while the movie (A Kiss in the Desert in the second capital, Alexandria) was shown, and the second is that the two brothers (Lama) were considered At that time, they were not Egyptians, as they were of Palestinian origin, and the history of the national cinema should not begin with a film produced by 100% non-Egyptian artists… So… the priority, remains – in fairness to the brothers Ibrahim and Badr Lama…! “, p. (39).

Immigration to Chile, return to the great homeland, and the establishment of the “Condor Film” company in Alexandria


The father of Ibrahim and Badr al-Amma (lama), was Abdullah Ibrahim Saeed al-Amma, the blind brother of Jacob Ibrahim, the father of Anton “Abu Jamal”, Tawfiq “Abu George”, and Jawdah “Abu Yaqoub” a blind from Al-Farahiya neighborhood in Medina. Abdullah was born in Beit El-Ham in the second half of the nineteenth century and then immigrated to the Republic of Chile in 1890, in which he married an immigrant Bethlehemian named Eliza Khalil Bashara Sarah), who bore him three children: Issa, Ibrahim, and Badr.

It is noted that the phenomenon of Bethlehemites emigration at this stage was the result of the worsening political and economic conditions in the Ottoman Empire. Not to mention the role played by international fairs such as the Philadelphia International Exposition of 1876, the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and the Saint Louis Exposition of 1904 in attracting Palestinian merchants who displayed the products of the Holy Land such as shell artifacts, swimming pools, steel, icons, brooches and olive wood antiques. The holy sites, which were being sold at attractive prices, spread the news of the pioneers and the wealth they had afflicted with a great spread and the hearts of all. This migration of many in Bethlehem became a family project financed by the family’s resources, and investment whose material and moral benefits accrue to the entire family.



Migration was slow and temporary at first. The main goal was to raise funds and return to the homeland until the years 1911-1913, political coups and wars, including the Balkans’ separation from the Ottoman Empire, and the years 1914-1918, the first global war, famines, diseases and forced conscription, the slow migration turned the temporary problem has turned into a dangerous social phenomenon whose bitter reality we are still living in, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict (see chapter two of this book).


As for Abdullah Ibrahim Saeed Al-Amma, the father of Ibrahim and Badr, he was forced to leave Chile and went with his family and children to Egypt for treatment, but the father’s health worsened and his brother Jacob went to Egypt in 1910. And he brought him with his family to Bethlehem, where he died in 1917, and after his death his wife returned with her children to Chile, where her son Jesus died.

Ibrahim and Badr’s hobby were photography. In 1929, they decided to return to Palestine; To establish a film industry in their homeland and when their ship stopped in Alexandria they saw the active cinematic movement in Alexandria, so they decided to stay. They had cinematographic equipment with them, and they lived in a villa in the Victoria district, where they joined an artistic group sponsored by a rich man, Muhammad Tawfiq. They also established an amateur club, issued a cinematic newsletter, held a competition to choose new faces, and finally established their own film company, Condor Film. “Hassan Youssef says in the seventh art:

Although this club only continued its activity for one year, it succeeded in creating a great interest in the art of cinema among a wide section of Egyptian youth, an interest that the Lama brothers invested in the following year (1927), when they founded the “Condor Film” company, which She announced the start of shooting her first movie, “A Kiss in the Desert”, and that she needs some actors.

The movie “A Kiss in the Desert”

Ibrahim played a key role in the production of films, as he was the writer, director, producer, photographer, decorator and monitor, while Badr focused on starring the main roles in conjunction with Nazi Kamel, Wedad Orfi, Fatima Rushdi, Ibrahim Zulfiqar, Soraya Refaat, Mukhtar Hussein, Nabawia Mustafa and Badriya Raafat, and they produced the first Arabic film. Silent (A Kiss in the Desert) May 1927: Film critic Muhammad Dawara describes this silent film as a simulation of the American movie “Ibn al-Sheikh” starring Rudolph Valentino. And as it was published in the Cairo Journal of Al-Musawwar on D September 1927:

“Shafiq is a young Arab who lives in the desert… He meets “Hilda” the American girl and he loves her and she loves him at first sight. The members of the tribe thought that he had killed his uncle the police, while Shafiq fled to the desert and became a member to get rid of him in and they informed a gang of bandits, and in one of the gang attacks, Shafiq finds himself face to face in front of his beloved Hilda and although he was disguised she saw the dagger, and when he was accused of kissing him he refuses Because this is not what is followed in the customs of the desert… and she gets angry and leaves him, and in the meantime he reaches Shafiq the news of his ingenuity from the blood of his uncle, and he rushes after his girlfriend and rescues her from three criminals who tried to assault her, and the movie ends with their marriage.

The Egyptian artistic press strongly criticized the film and considered it “a step backward towards the establishment of an Egyptian film industry… and that the film looks at Egypt and Egyptians through foreign eyes…” which prompted Ibrahim Lama to respond to these accusations in terms that express retreat and withdrawal. It does not deal with the life of Egypt, even if it was directed in Egypt.” The Lama brothers tried to give importance to Egyptian art in her second movie “Catastrophe Over the Nile” (1928) when they contracted with theater actress Fatima Rushdi, and this film achieved great financial and moral success. One of the main indicators was that “foreigners are getting closer and closer to the Egyptian audience.”

The Lama brothers moved to Cairo:

In 1930, the Brotherhood moved to Cairo, and there Ibrahim married the American Isabel. George bore him two sons: Samir Abdullah, who participated in many of his father’s films, and Judea, who did not participate in the work of cinema, and Badr married the Lebanese Josephine Sarkis, who co-starred with him in many of his films under the name Badria Raafat, and the studios of the Lama brothers in the thirties and forties became major Film companies in Cairo.

Ibrahim the blind, who is one of the sons of the late Tawfiq Yaqoub Ibrahim al-Amma, cousin of Badr and Ibrahim and a resident of Bethlehem, told me that the two Lama brothers stayed in Bethlehem among their relatives and in Palestine in the thirties, in order to shoot the movie “The Fugitive” whose events revolved around escaping from the Ottoman conscription during the war. The first world-class and some Bethlehem residents participated in the cast.

The following is a list of some of the films produced by Alama Studios between 1927 and 1951.

1. A kiss in the desert. 16. A cry in the night. 2. A tragedy above the pyramid. 17. Cleopatra. 3. The miracle of love. 18. Son of the desert. 4. Maarouf Al-Badawi. 19. single. 5. Prick the conscience. 20. Secrets of the world. 6. Victims. 21. God’s Groom. 7. ghost of the past. 22. blood call. 8. the fugitive. 23. shut up love 9. The request. 24. The fake beehive. 10. Confused souls. 25. The girl of the East. 11. lost treasure. 29. The beautiful Bedouin 12. Cairo Nights 27. The missing link. 13. Qais and Leila. 28. safety rail. -1. A man between two women. 29. Storm in the spring. Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi. 30 The treasure of happiness. 31. The convoy is going on.

The death of Badr Lama and the collapse of Lama Studios:

When he finished the movie (The Beautiful Bedouin) in 1947, Lama suffered a heart attack, as a result of which he died on the first of October (Musnad) 1967. The people of Bethlehem held a memorial party to commemorate his memory, in which thousands of citizens of the Bethlehem area participated.


After Badr’s death, Ibrahim chose his son Samir Abdullah to replace his brother. Samir co-starred in the movie (The Missing Link) with the young rising actress Faten Hamama in 1948 and actress Afaf Shaker in the movie (Seka Al Salamah in 1949), and the artist Shadia in the movie (An Asif in Spring). In 1951, the actor Bishara Wakim in the movie (The Treasure of Happiness, the actress Magda and the actor Mahmoud El Meligy in the movie (The Caravan is Going). Suddenly the fire broke out and devoured all the contents of Lama studios, including the film tapes. Catastrophes followed and the dispute between Ibrahim and his wife ended, and Ibrahim died on the night of May 12, 1953 … taxes were accumulated on the studios, and in the end, “their doors were sealed with red wax” and the family collapsed. As for Josephine Sarkis (Badriya Raafat), Badr’s widow, she played only one heroic role in the movie (The Last Encounter) in 1953. With Imad Hamdi, Mohsen Sarhan, and Zahra Al-Ala, she retired from film work after him, dedicating her life to her daughters and grandchildren. As for Samir Abdullah Ibrahim Lama, despite his repeated attempts in cinematic work, including his short experience in Lebanon in the sixties and the films (Wadi Elmo). T), (Saqr Al-Arab) and (Al-Qaheroon), but luck was not on his side, so he retired from film work for good.

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