Tag Archives: Egyptian Cinema

Thinking Aloud About Film: The Eloquent Peasant (Shadi Abdel Salam, Egypt, 1970)

We podcast on our second Shadi Abdel Salam film, the beautiful Film Foundation restoration of The Eloquent Peasant. The film is a parable, a moral lesson. A peasant is robbed of his cargo by a rich man. Is justice for the powerless possible or are the rich protected by too many vested interests? As relevant a question now as it was in Ancient Times. The podcast may be listened to here:

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546


We have done two previous podcasts on Shadi Abdel Salam’s Al Momia: The Night of Counting the Stars, which the film foundation screened in conjunction with The Eloquent Peasant. 


These podcasts may be listened to here:

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 35: An Egyptian Perspective on Al-Momia/ The Night of Counting The Years

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 33: Al-mummia/ The Night of Counting The Years (Shadi Abdel Salam, Egypt, 1969)


You can see how striking the restoration is from some of these screengrabs:

The film foundation page has wonderful supporting materials on the film, and they may be accessed here.

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No, 44: Le Chaos (2007)

We discuss Chahine’s last film, Le Chaos, and are delighted by what we see; a political melodrama that offers all the pleasures of the genre — one feels for these people who long for love and freedom but who aren’t allowed to achieve their wants through repressive social and state mechanisms. The villain is a torturer and rapist. Chahine’s achievement is that he makes him understandable, whilst offering a Marxist critique of a corrupt culture through a film that always sides with the powerless. The mise-en-scène is masterful; the film is brilliant. Thanks very much to the kind friend who made it possible for us to see it. We have 15 more Chahine films we have not been able to source; so if any of you know where we can buy/source/see them, we would appreciate it. In the podcast we also discuss how the film can be seen as an amalgamation of recurring Chahine thematics as well as recurring visual motifs and we try to connect this film to the rest of his oeuvre. It’s one to see.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Listeners might be interested in comparing the way the film was marketed in Egypt:

…an in France:


also, this is the Variety article where Richard picked up the information about Khaled Youssef’s involvement


José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Film Club — The Will (Kamal Selim, 1939)

In Egypt, The Will (aka Determination) is often voted the greatest Egyptian film of all time, one of the greatest ever anywhere, and a precursor to Italian neo-realism. Youssef Chahine recommended it and provided the impetus for our viewing. In this podcast, we discuss how much we liked it (the representation of a whole way of life with its structures of feeling, the melodrama, the resonances it still has to contemporary life); the limits of its comparison to neo-realism; its influence on Chahine, particularly evident in Daddy Amin; and how and why its claims to being one of the greatest films of all time nonetheless elude us.

The podcast my also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Mark Cousins talks about The Will in Story of Film. Some very interesting context for it:

A great restoration of the film (with slightly eccentric subtitles) is available on iTunes:


José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No. 33: Al-mummia/ The Night of Counting The Years (Shadi Abdel Salam, Egypt, 1969)

At the request of our listeners, we are expanding the podcast onto other instances of Egyptian cinema. We saw Shadi Abdel Salam’s Al-mummia/ The Night of Counting The Years in the wonderful version restored with the help of Martin Scorsese and the Cineteca di Bologna in 2009. It’s a truly great film: poetic, allegorical, about the past and the nation; people robbed, robbing others, robbing themselves, stealing their own past and rescuing it so that it might live in the present. But not without a cost: in one night a young man brings life to the past so it may have a future but in the process  loses his father, his brother, his tribe and his home; and that past he’s rescued is heading for the metropolis where he does not yet have a stake. He’s saved it for others of a larger tribe to which he also belongs. But he has himself lost it, at least momentarily. A very beautiful film that I’m sure will reward further viewing. Much of this podcast is a combination of appreciation and queries about what we don’t yet understand.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

The New York Times Review we discuss in the podcast:

..and some other images from the film:

The date for the vilm is variously given as 1969 and 1970. Preponderance has led us to opt for 1969.


The Youssef Chahine Podcast with José Arroyo and Richard Layne – No. 10: Return of the Prodigal Son/ Awdet el Ebn el Dal, 1976

A teen musical à la Tennesse Williams with Shakespearean overtones and a blood wedding that would put both García Lorca and Game of Thrones to shame. Richard Layne and I discuss all of this in the context of both Chahine’s career, it was his first film after the Trilogy of Defeat (The Land, The Choice, The Sparrow) –and the political context of the time, with the Civil War in Lebanon, one that was to last fifteen years, starting in 1975, the year before this Algerian-Lebanese-Egyptian co-production was produced.





The film is structured around the Old Testament Story, with a Cain and Abel structuring device also accompanied by a Romeo and Juliet story, in this case, and in keeping with the film’s Marxist analysis, a love made impossible by a class divide. It also borrows from the André Gide short story of the same name which explores the impossibility of having one law that fits all.

The film is a very hybrid generically, but it IS a musical. In The Arab National Project in Yousssef Chahine’s Cinema, Malek Khouri writes,


The first musical number takes place at school where the two young dreamers Rafida and Ibrahim express their friendship and love for each other. The second song accompanies Ali’s release from prison and introduces us to his character through flashbacks of his lost time in prison and his consequent disillusionment with his political dreams and hopes. The third follows the fight between Ibrahim and his father Tulba, as Ibrahim and his father Tulb, Ibrahim and Tafida join other youths in proclaiming ‘The streets are ours,’ reflecting the solidarity and determination of youth in the fight for social change and freedom. The final song is inItially heard when Ibrahim is bit by a scorpion, and is heard once again as a mantra towards the end of the film as the bloody chaos explodes at the Madbouli household’ (p. 108)



The music is glorious, as you can see below in the footage of Sadat’s funeral, that leads to a full-blown musical number, with dancing.

The film’s first musical number is this lovely one about the ending of school.


This is continued by a song that refers both to Egypt after Nasser but also to the love story between our two young protagonists.


A song that. is reprised in the incredible finale for the film, which is as lurid and violent as anything in Titus Andronicus:


…and as always, Chahine puts his hopes in youth and the future:



I made this trailer for the podcast that gives a flavour of the film as a whole:


José Arroyo