The Youssef Chahine Podcast No: 41: A Nightingale’s Prayer (Henry Barakat, 1959)

The Nightingale’s Prayer, based on a 1934 novel by renowned Egyptian author Taha Hussein, is an extraordinary melodrama, a critique of patriarchy anyone interested in cinema’s treatment of these issues should see. A philandering husband is killed for his actions. His shame extends to his family and his wife (Amina Rizk) and his daughters – Amna (Faten Hamama, the great star of Egyptian Cinema) and Hanadi (Zahrat El Ola, who faithful listeners might recognise from Jamila, the Algerian ) — are forced to leave the village and face all the travails of being three vulnerable women on the road. They eventually settle in a small village and get what they think are respectable jobs as maids. They don’t yet know that ‘putting out’ is an expected part of the job description when working for single men. Hanadi is seduced and made pregnant. She tells her mother, who tells her brother, who comes find her and kills his niece. He tells them to say it’s the plague; Amna tells him it was his duty to protect them and runs away on her own, to find that bachelor, kill him and avenge her sister. A film that is beautiful to look at, poetically structured through internal monologues, and successful at conveying and inciting feeling. We talk about all of this and more  in the podcast below:

The podcast my also be listened to on Spotify here:

and on itunes here:


The basic plot can be followed in this series of images:

A good review with credits may be found here:


José Arroyo

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