We return for the third part of our conversation with Hussein, offering an Egyptian perspective on Youssef Chahine’s career, its contexts and its significance. In this episode we touch on ‘The Sparrow’, ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’, ‘Adieu Bonaparte’ and ‘Alexandria…Again and Forever‘. We discuss how one of the songs of The Sparrow was released before the film, and has seeped into Egyptian pop culture without people necessarily knowing its source, like the phrases discussed in our last conversation. We also discuss the famous Egyptian Actor’s Union Strike of 1987, the influence of Netflix, how Alexandria….Again and Forever might be under-appreciated…and more.
We will return for a final episode discussing the last stage of Chahine’s brilliant career beginning with ‘Cairo as Seen by Chahine’.
Hussein helped me find an Egyptian equivalent to imdb to name all the actors that appear in Alexandria Again and Forever as themselves in the depiction of the famous strike, and I include the cast list with the actors named and pictured below:
Hussein redresses some of the political aspects of the films that were quite overlooked in our earlier podcast. Most importantly, the strike by the Egyptian Actors’ Union of 1987. There are very scarce resources on this strike but thankfully Chahine did a whole film revolving around it. The Egyptian parliament had passed laws governing unions that would have allowed the term of each head of the union to run forever. One of the remarkable things about the film is how Chahine filmed the fictional strike in the exact locations where it had happened with the people who had participated in the strike, inserting footage of the actual strike, documentary footage from the union’s conference that was organized as part of the strike. The conference issued a declaration that eventually lead to the government backing down and rolling back the changes in the union law.
The extraordinary Taheyya Kariokka (above) at the height of her fame on the left, and managing the Actor’s Union on the right.
Chahine on the set of Return of the Prodigal Son
Michel Piccoli, Youssef Chahine, Mohsen Mohieddin and director Patrice Chereau, who played Napoleon for Chahine, at the time of Adieu Bonaparte.
We will continue with our fourth and final episode next week