For all the years, I've known Abed Bibi, we've talked about wanting to 'do something' with his dad, Mohamad's, remarkable collection of Arabic movie posters. Mohamad was the manager of one of Beirut's most popular movie chains, and had over the years amassed the largest collection of Arab movie posters in the world.
ANA's 5th anniversary was the perfect excuse!
We are delighted to share 14 of these original posters with you. They'll be on display for the duration of ANA at the Jane Peck Gallery on the second floor of the theater.
A very special thanks to Sharon AvRutick of the Jacob Burns Film Center for writing a lovely introduction to the exhibit, as well as the accompanying text to each poster.
"In the 1950s through the 1980s, Egypt saw a dramatic flowering in film production, and Mohamad A. Bibi was right in the middle of this intoxicating time. Bibi began working in the Arab movie world in 1953, starting at the bottom of the ladder by selling tickets and helping promote the movies at a Beirut cinema. In the 1960s, he became general manager of Itani Cinemas, which distributed and produced films as well as owning the largest network of cinemas in Beirut at the time.
Since the technology necessary to produce large-format printed movie posters was not yet available in the Middle East, the posters made to publicize these movies were painted by hand. The artists—some of the most famous of the day—would preview each film, return to their studios to paint, and then run off 30 copies on paper treated with zinc oxide. Today, these posters are rare, most of the actors have passed away, and no one is painting on zinc-oxide paper anymore.
In the course of his work, Mohamad Bibi saw many of these posters, and soon started collecting them, eventually amassing a total of around 2,000. Many were destroyed or stolen during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90), and others were lost when the Piccadilly (Beirut’s grandest movie theater) burned down in 2000. Today, the collection is housed in Beirut (where Mohammad lives) and in Dubai, with his son, Abed.
For some, the posters in the Bibi Family Collection are precious memories of a bygone era. For the rest of us, they are tantalizing introductions to a vibrant, “anything goes” time when legends of the silver screen could be found in poses they’d never get away with in today’s conservative atmosphere."