This program is presented with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Though Egyptian director Youssef Chahine has been making extraordinary movies at a prodigious rate for almost half a century, few Americans outside critical and festival circles have had the opportunity to view his work. (A complete Chahine retrospective was mounted at the Locarno Film Festival in 1996, and he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.) As part of the 36th New York Film Festival, we are proud to showcase selected works by this master of cinema at the Walter Reade Theater.
READ MORE ABOUT YOUSSEF CHAHINE HERE
Note: all films are subtitled in English.
CAIRO STATION / BAB EL HADID
(1958; 86 minutes)
Cairo's main railroad station is the setting for Egyptian society in small, a community comprised of luggage carriers and soft-drink sellers who live in abandoned traincars. A crippled newspaper dealer, Kinawi (Chahine himself), falls in love with the beauteous but indifferent Hanuma, a lemonade seller who has eyes only for the handsome Abu Sri'. Swept away by his obsessive desire, Kinawi kidnaps the object of his passion, with terrible consequences. This Chahine masterpiece explores sexuality and repression, madness and violence, among the marginalized. CAIRO STATION brought the director international recognition at the Berlin Film Festival.
CAIRO AS SEEN BY YOUSSEF CHAHINE
(1991; 22 minutes)
This concise masterpiece began as a commission by French TV for the news series Envoyé spécial. By filming Cairo with his unique sense of artistic digression, Chahine transformed this portrait of a city into the self-portrait of a filmmaker. -- 1996 Program, Locarno International Film Festival
Saturday, September 26: 2 pm
Sunday, September 27: 4:30 pm
Wednesday, September 30: 4, 6:30 and 9 pm
IT'S YOU MY LOVE / INTA HABIBI
(1957; 120 minutes)
Out of economic necessity, two Cairo families decide to marry their children. But Farid and Yasmina cannot stomach one another Farid is secretly leading a frenetic night life, singing in a fashionable club and is carrying on a love affair with its star belly dancer. Yasmina, the girl, is having an affair with another man. But conniving together as they do to dupe their families, they end up falling in love.
Saturday, September 26: 4:30 pm
Monday, September 28: 4 and 8:45 pm
Tuesday, September 29: 6:15 pm
THE LAND / EL-ARD
(1969; 130 minutes)
Chahine's classic film was adapted from Abdel Rahman al-Sharqawi's well-known novel by the same title. Eight years in the making, this epic film about feudalism in rural regions was named the best Egyptian film ever made in a recent poll of Egyptian film critics. Chahine chronicles the struggle of a small village of peasants against the careless inroads of the local large landowner. THE LAND shows why political oppression doesn't necessarily lead to a sense of solidarity among the disinherited.
Saturday, September 26: 7 pm
Sunday, October 4: 7:50 pm
Monday, October 5: 4 and 8:30 pm
ALEXANDRIA, WHY? / ISKANDERIYA LEH?
(1978; 120 minutes)
Silver Bear, Berlin 1979
The first film in Chahine's autobiographical Alexandria trilogy, ALEXANDRIA, WHY? was a (widely banned) revelation in Arab cinema for its use of first-person narrative and for testing boundaries of cultural identity. In 1942, as Rommel's army nears Alexandria, some cheer the victors, Jews prepare to flee, and a vengeful aristocrat buys British soldiers to seduce and kill them--until he falls in love with one young captive. A young student (Chahine's avatar) adores Shakespeare and Hollywood, dreaming of studying filmmaking in the USA, but as he discovers the lies of European occupation and Americanization, and experiences a sexual awakening, he profoundly reevaluates his identity and allegiances.
Saturday, September 26: 9:30 pm
Sunday, September 27: 2 pm
Thursday, October 8: 6:15 pm
Friday, October 9: 4 and 8:30 pm
ONCE UPON A TIME THE NILE / EL-NAAS WA EL-NIL
(1968-70; 105 minutes)
The construction of the Aswan dam as seen by those who took part in it: engineers and workers, Egyptians and Soviets. Beginning with the day the waters of the Nile were diverted, Chahine shows how individual concerns sometimes outweigh the myth surrounding a collective undertaking. The first Egyptian-Soviet co-production was shown to its two sponsor governments in 1968, inspiring considerable displeasure. Re-editing was demanded, along with newly shot sequences using actors. Consequently, the film was not shown until 1972. -- Program, 1996 Locarno International Film Festival
Sunday, September 27: 7 pm
Sunday, October 4: 5:45 pm
Monday, October 5: 6:30 pm
SKY OF HELL / SERAA FI EL-WADI
(1954; 106 minutes)
Omar Sharif's first film with Chahine, who discovered the handsome young actor sitting in a Cairo café--here, he plays Ahmed, the son of an estate manager who works for Amal, a rich landowner. Amal has paid for Ahmed's agricultural studies and believes himself betrayed when the young man uses his knowledge to educate the peasants. The estate owner weaves all manner of nasty plots--and it's up to brave Ahmed to save his dad from wrongful accusations and death, even as he is hounded by a murdered sheik's vengeful son.
Monday, September 28: 6:30 pm
Tuesday, September 29: 4 and 8:45 pm
SALADIN / EL-NASSER SALAH EDDINE
(1963; 145 minutes)
When director Ezzedine Zulfiqar took ill, Chahine was called in to helm this pan-Arabian epic commemorating the reclamation of the Suez Canal. In the 12th century, Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, unites Arabs across North Africa and Western Asia against the crusading Christians, a story that echoes President Nasser's contemporary uniting of Arabs against the Zionists. After defeating Richard the Lion-Hearted, the legendary Saladin pledges that Arab Jerusalem will remain open to all pilgrims, whatever their religion. Chahine himself appears as one of the main characters in what has been called the greatest historical epic of Egyptian cinema.
Note: the film will be shown with French subtitles and simultaneous translation
Friday, October 2: 4 and 7 pm
Saturday, October 3: 2 pm
THE CHOICE / EL-IKHTIYAR
(1970; 110 minutes)
When a free-spirited sailor is found murdered, his twin brother--a famous novelist--is the prime suspect. Investigators uncover a possible liaison between the dead sailor and the writer's wife, and also learn that Sayed's successful fictions owed much to the inspiration of his brother Mahmoud's adventurous life. Just as the evidence against the novelist seems overwhelming, Mahmoud turns up alive. But why are the twins never seen together...? In this very personal film, one can see the symbolic outlines of the uneasy relationship between Egyptian intellectuals and the problems of the proletariat.
Tuesday, October 6: 4 and 8:15 pm
Wednesday, October 7: 6:15 pm
THE SPARROW / EL-OUSFOUR
(1973; 100 minutes)
One of his most controversial films, THE SPARROW was written by Chahine in collaboration with avant-gardist Lofti el-Kholi. Set during the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and the United Arab Republic and banned by Sadat's government, this story of familial and national divisions has become one of Chahine's most popular films in festivals and retrospectives. A young policeman's adoptive father occupies a high post in the force, while his biological father is reputed to have been a left-wing activist. Raouf begins to search for those who might have known his real father, while his half-brother, stationed on the Sinai front, prepares for battle.
Tuesday, October 6: 6:15 pm
Wednesday, October 7: 4 and 8:30 pm
THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON /
AWDAT EL-IBN EL-DALL
(1978; 120 minutes)
Freely adapted from the novel by Andre Gide and co-produced by Egypt and Algeria, RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON is another Chahine parable set between the Arab-Israeli wars. An activist who's been jailed for more than a decade, Ali is eagerly awaited by his family. All hope that this just man will stand up against his ruthless brother's tyranny, but nobody even recognizes the prodigal when he shows up during a big party. Prison has so thoroughly crushed Ali's youth and idealism that he now allies himself with the oppressor.
Thursday, October 8: 4 and 8:30 pm
Friday, October 9: 6:15 pm
AN EGYPTIAN STORY /
(1982; 120 minutes)
The young protagonist from ALEXANDRIA, WHY? has now grown older and is ailing with a (highly symbolic) heart condition, serious enough to require surgery. During the operation, a child embodying his conscience tries Yehia for the crime of betraying his ideals. After a lifetime of witnesses offer testimony, Yehia's conscience loses the trial and--a redundant organ--is expelled from the filmmaker's body. Will the loss be fatal?
Monday, October 12: 2 and 6:15 pm
ALEXANDRIA AGAIN AND AGAIN /
ISKANDERIYA KAMAN WA KAMAN
(1989; 105 minutes)
Taking a stand for democracy, the entire Egyptian film industry goes on a hunger strike. Yehia, a director, joins the strikers. As demand follows demand, Yehia daydreams about Amir, the young actor he loves and whose career he has launched. But then he meets the beautiful Nadia and gradually falls in love with her. After the strike ends, Yehia decides to make a movie with Nadia.
Monday, October 12: 4 and 8:30 pm
Wednesday, October 14: 2 pm
Thursday, October 15: 2 pm
Special weeklong screenings of
Youssef Chahine's masterpiece
DESTINY / EL-MASSIF
(1997; 135 minutes)
"The most courageous frontal attack on Islamic fundamentalism to come out of the Arab cinema to date...both an entertaining historical biopic...and a blunt allegory condemning the politically driven fanaticism of present times." -- Deborah Young, Variety
Muslim Andalusia, in the 12th century: Abu ibn Rushd, the great philospher known throughout Christian Europe as Averroës, inspires his many young followers of all faiths to study the teachings of the classical Greek philosophers. Yet there are those who condemn all such speculation, seeing this kind of intellectual exploration and adventure as an assault on religious orthodoxy. Awarded a special prize at Cannes for his remarkable and incredibly courageous body of work, director Youssef Chahine has created in DESTINY a deeply felt, exuberant historical fresco with profound implications for today--and spiced it all with a few rousing musical numbers.
Friday, October 16; Wednesday, October 21; and Friday, October 23:
2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday, October 17 and 18:
4:30, 7 and 9:30 pm
Monday, October 19: 2 and 4:30 pm
Tuesday, October 20: 2 pm
Saturday, October 24: 4:15pm
Main Film Festival Program
Views from the Avant-Garde
Bergman's IN THE PRESENCE OF A CLOWN