Born in Alexandria, Egypt on August 4, 1908, Bahiga Hafez was a celebrated Egyptian actress, writer, and filmmaker. Being honored by today’s Google Doodle on what would have been her 112th birthday, the essence of Hafez has been captured by Cairo-based illustrator, Mariam ElReweny, and will appear to Google-users based in the GCC, Lebanon, Iraq, and North Africa.
One of Egypt’s first multi-hyphenate stars, Hafez was a screenwriter, as well as a composer, director, editor, producer, and of course, actress. Having earned a degree in music composition in Paris, the actress released her debut album in 1930, before moving to Cairo and landing the lead role in Mohammed Karim’s silent drama, Zeinab. Portrayed the helplessness of a woman separated from love on account of her family, the movie compelled audiences across the country with its poignant storytelling and cinematic thrills. Hafez, in addition to playing the role of the protagonist, also composed the soundtrack, which went on to be re-released in 1935 as “talkie,” including verbal dialogue.
Following the success of Zeinab, Hafez went on to establish her own production company, the Fanar Film Company. A groundbreaking move on her part, the company was founded with husband Mahmoud Hamdi and went on to produce the silent film Al Dahaya in 1932. In addition to once again playing the lead role, Hafez also served as co-director, producer, editor, costume designer, and composer. Having completed her first solo directorial title, Layla al-Badawiyya in 1944, Hafez went on to produce myriad titles through the Fanar Film Company.
In a statement outlining her significant contribution to the arts, Google says, “her work helped pave the way for the start of what is widely considered Egyptian cinema’s golden age in the 1940s, and she is depicted in the doodle artwork wearing a costume inspired by the many opulent wardrobes she designed from this era of film.”