Youssef Chahine – Awdat al ibn al dal AKA The Return of the Prodigal Son (1976)


In this Andre Gide adaptation, an activist is released after many years in prison and returns home, shaking up established relationships among his family members at the farm governed by his strict father. Demonstrating Chahine’s eclecticism, this is an elegant melodrama, exuberant musical, layered allegory, and profound portrait of personal and political disillusionment. (

Arab melodrama draws on familial strife just as much as the melodramas of classic Hollywood and popular Indian cinema, and here Chahine, like Minnelli and Visconti, expands the family melodrama to examine a disillusioned nation. The story concerns a benevolent farmer, his troubled son and his grandson, who is beginning to chafe under his father’s restrictions; the situation is given an explosive charge by the return from prison of the patriarch’s beloved younger son. The film’s screenplay is co-written by songwriter Salah Jahin, who also wrote the score. (Yes, Prodigal Son is also a musical.) Jahin’s earlier music had praised Nasser, and his work on this film was meant to expiate the guilt he felt for helping to inflate Egypt’s expectation of its leader. (

Subtitles:French subs

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