The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 17: Cairo as Seen by Chahine/ Le Caire…raconté par Youssef Chahine

An appreciation of Chahine’s short but great Cairo as Seen By Chahine. We discuss the film’s self-reflexiveness. How it’s aware of framing, composition, foreign expectations, relations and obligations concerning style and subject matter. How to film and evoke a city? How to do it with respect and love for its inhabitants? How to politely warn about dangers around, problems ahead and how to understand what drives desperate people there. We could have had a much longer discussion. But then, it would have been longer than the film.

The film was shot in Cairo between the 15th of January and the 23rd of February 1991.

Some of the clips discussed include the following:

A)Self-reflexiveness on framing and composition:

B) What foreigners expect to see in a film about Cairo:

c) Ruminations on a style that will please the critics:

D) Prayers and Show business:

E: Cinema and Film-going:

F: Trailer for Podcast:

and this one:

Richard has noticed a similarity/connection between the opening scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho:

and the scene where Chahine connects the whole city to people living together, to knowing and to love:

This ends too quickly but will give you an idea:

The film per se is available to see with e-s-t on Vimeo:

Samee3Lamee3, one of the very knowledgeable listeners of the podcast has illuminated the following points for us,  so very many thanks:

The film (within the film) is called “The Belly Dancer and the Politician” also the dialogue in the screened film is a very smart way for  Chahine to put the political element that portrays Egypt’s corrupt leaders

A few of them (the people in the film) are actual actors, like “Basem Samra” who did the sex scene. It was his first film and now he is a well established actor in Egypt. Only the shots of the streets and cafes were regular people.

His name is Khaled Youssef, he met “Joe” when he wanted to screen “The Sparrow” in his University. But the screening got them in trouble, they became friends and Joe convinced him that he would make a great director. So he mentored him and made him.

wrote “The other” and later films because he had political knowledge and many consider Khaled as the real director for “Chaos”. And Khaled has made many commercially successful films since then

José Arroyo

3 thoughts on “The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 17: Cairo as Seen by Chahine/ Le Caire…raconté par Youssef Chahine

  1. The most fascinating thing about this film is its sound. As an Egyptian who grew up in Egypt, every bit of sound in this film brings back so many memories and nostalgia about my childhood. The street sounds, the horns, the morning radio broadcast on the school bus, the voice of Om Kolthoum singing in street side cafes, even the voice of Nabila Ebeid and Youssef Chabaan in that movie. I grew up in the 90s and what you hear in this film is exactly what you would hear growing up in Cairo at the time. It is amazing how he manages to compress that much sounds and scenes and feelings and nostalgia in just 23 minutes and 50 seconds, the duration of the film.

    By the way, unlike what was mentioned by Abdulsamee, this film inside the film is not “Al Raqesa wal Seyasi” (The Dancer and the Politician), Youssef Chabaan (the guy with the mustache) did not star in that one. This is actually a film from 1990 called “Qadiyat Samiha Badran” (The Case of Samiha Badran). You can find it here on this youtube link, and the scene featured in the film starts at 1:12:00.

    The two actors in this are Nabila Ebeid and Youssef Chabaan. You should recognize Nabila as she starred in Chaine’s 1999 “The Other”, the only time she was cast in a Chahine film, nevertheless she was one of the first row film stars from the 70s all the way to the early 2000s. The other guy is Youssef Chabaan. He’s never starred in a Chahine film but he is also a very loved actor in Egypt whose prime was 1960s – 2000s, acting in both films and series/ soap operas.

    Some other things to note in this film:
    – The car Chahine drives at the start of the film, the Mazda station wagon, is actually his own personal car, it was also featured in the 1989 Alexandria Again and Forever. Even that navy blue Lacoste jacket he is wearing here here also wore in Alexandria Again and Forever.

    – The classroom featured at minute 2 of the movie is in the Cinema Institute where Chahine used to teach, and the students featured are actually real cinema students.

    – The scene at around minute 4 of the film is actually taken from the window of his own apartment, in the upscale river island of Zamalek. The squarish tower under construction on the opposite side of the Nile is the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the same apartment where he filmed scenes in Alexandria Again and Forever and also in the 1982 Egyptian Story. He lived in this apartment almost his entire life, from the 60’s when the building was built till he passed away in 2008.

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