Egypt

Youssef Chahine – Adieu Bonaparte AKA Farewell Bonaparte (1985)

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In 1798, Napoleon lands his army in Egypt, defeats the Mameluke warlords (the remnants of Ottoman rule), and goes on to Cairo. Three brothers, who are Egyptian patriots, chafe under Mameluke rule and reject the prospect of French domination. Bakr, the eldest, is a hothead, quick to advocate armed rebellion; Ali is more philosophical and poetic; Yehia is young and impressionable. One of Napoleon’s generals, the one-legged intellectual Caffarelli, wants to make Frenchmen out of Ali, Yehia, and other Egyptians, opening a bakery where their father works, becoming a tutor, and declaring his love for them. Is tragedy the only resolution of these conflicting loyalties? Read More »

Jocelyne Saab – Dunia (2005)

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After studying literature at Cairo University, Dunia, 23 years old, wants to become a professional dancer. She attends audition for an oriental dance contest where she recites Arabian poetry without any body movement. She explains to the perplexed jury that a woman can’t move her body or evoke act of love when society ask women to hide their femininity. She is selected and meets Beshir, an intellectual and activist who will supervise her thesis on ecstasy in Sufi love poetry. Their attraction is mutual. This could be liberation for Dunia but the constraints on women in Egyptian society goes deeper than she suspects. Read More »

Youssef Chahine – Iskanderija, kaman oue kaman AKA Alexandria Again and Forever (1989)

The last film in Youssef Chahine’s autobiographical Alexandria Trilogy stars Chahine himself as his cinematic alter ego, Yehia Mourad, completing his merging of fiction with real life and drama with psychodrama. Opening with Chahine’s triumph at the Berlin Film Festival, where he took home the Silver Bear for Alexandria…Why? (the first film in the trilogy–this is layered stuff), the film explores Yehia’s obsession with his young star, Amir (Amr Abdel-Guelil), while participating in the general strike of 1987. As Yehia fantasizes about the films they would make together (one of them looks like a loony take on Jesus Christ Superstar), he elevates Amir from a kind of adopted son to cinematic messiah. But while caught up in the strike, Yehia becomes enchanted by a former actress, Nadia (Yousra), turned dedicated revolutionary, and he decides to cast her in his next feature. Read More »

Youssef Chahine – El Naser Salah el Dine AKA Saladin and the Great Crusades (1963)

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During the Second and Third Crusades, Saladin beat the Franks in battle partly because he was helped by an Arab Christian named Issan. Thus he was able to reconquer Jerusalem and take many prisoners, including Guy de Lusignan, a Christian King.
This big budget production, promoted by Assia, a well-known female producer, enabled Chahine to offer an Arab perspective on the history of the Crusades such as presented by Hollywood and Cinecittà. In order to obtain Egyptian army’s logistical support and also administrative clearances, Chahine cunningly persuaded Nasser, the charismatic ruler of Egypt, that the film was being made as a tribute to him. Read More »

Mohamed Malas – Ahlam el Madina AKA Dreams of the City (1984)

“Mother, come and see how beautiful Damascus is!”, little Omar cries out to his mother, a young woman drained by mourning. The widely acclaimed, partially autobiographical, Dreams of the City marks the turn towards auteur Syrian cinema, resurrecting the memories of childhood of the working poor. A young widow and her two sons are forced to move from their native Quneytra to Damascus, where her father forces them to fend for themselves. Against the backdrop of successive military coups that punctuated the turbulent 1950s in Syria, Adib, the eldest of the boys comes of age in the vast and overwhelming urban magic of Damascus. The image of mosques, faces and the greenery of Damascus swirl by as Adib witnesses a dizzying and violent day in the city. At last, the wounded child gazes at the full moon; the city shatters against it. Read More »

Youssef Chahine – Al-ard aka The Land (1969)

This film can be considered one of the world’s best movies, actually it was chosen on top of the best 100 movies in Egypt. The movie is adopted from a novel written by Abdel Rahman El Sharkawi and was directed by Youssef Shahin. Abdel Rahman El Sharkawi is a well known novelist and play-writer, in fact he’s much more recognized for the plays he wrote. The movie “El-Ard” was produced in 1969, which falls inn a very important period of time in the Egyptian history, at this time the Egyptian ideology was being restructured. As for the film itself, I would start by the choice of actors, when you think of the actors that were in Egypt at that time, you can’t find a replacement for any of the actors in the movie, and you feel that no one else can play in any of the roles. I would start by the Great actor Mahmoud El-Meliguy. Read More »

Sherif Arafa – Tuyoor al-Zalam AKA Birds of Darkness (1995)

Fathi Nofal Imam, an unknown but no-nonsense attorney with a taste for liquor and loose women, is assigned to take a case related to one of the local politicians. The story centers on his representation of Samira, a woman up on prostitution charges. His opponent is the Islamist lawyer Ali and both of them face a stern Muslim judge. Despite formidable obstacles, the clever Imam is able to work the crooked justice system and use religion to free Samira, after which he becomes a personal adviser for the local politician. Read More »