Tag Archives: Egyptian Cinema

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 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