The business of making films takes place in tight-knit circles, which are difficult to enter into as a “participant observer.” One is compelled to absorb a tremendous amount of shop talk: names one doesn’t know, specialized terms one is not familiar with, places one hasn’t been to, bits of equipment one has never used. Professional filmmakers have no need to slow down the interaction and explain what they are talking about, hence an ethnographer must be an incredibly quick study to catch on in this world. Chihab El Khachab has done it, and has in my opinion done what no other anthropologist has accomplished. A production-side ethnography is a sort of Holy Grail for media studies scholars working in Egypt and the region. A few scholars have done it to a degree, but Making Film in Egypt is in a different class. El Khachab’s work will revolutionize how we think of Arab media production
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