Youssef Chahine

Youssef Chahine was a successful Egyptian  director who took the risk to raise disturbing issues which depicts the everyday living of the people in his movies. Now that he is 81 and had 45 films and even received awards and high recognition from the whole world, his battle in showcasing reality in movies has not yet to end. His 45th film was expected to hit the theaters in Egypt in early 2008 and with this movie, he was invited in the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival. His controversial movies which was opposed by the conservatives in Egypt became the face of a free will cinema as he presents in his screen the idea of sensitibility and having apoint of view.Youssef ChahineGabriel Youssef Chahine was born in Alexandria, Egypt on January 25, 1926. He came from a family of a Lebanese heritage and a mother who was a greek. His father was an attorney and he was the one who gave him a Lebanese blood. He belongs in a middle class  Christian family but was able to be educated in private schools including the Victoria College which was Alexandria’s English language Institute during those times. After one year of stay in Alexandria University, he convinced his parents to allow him to explore hollywood and in 1946 to 1948, he stayed in Pasadera Playhouse Los Angeles, California to study film and dramatic arts. Upon returning in Alexandria, he was lucky to be the apprentice of Gianni Vernuccio who was an Italian Documentary Film Maker and Alvisi Orfanell, an influential figure in the cinema history of Egypt became his mentor. In the 1930s, Cairo became the Hollywood of the Middle East (http://www.youssefchahine.us/).Chahine’s first film was Baba Amine (Father Amine) in 1950 and was followed by Ibn el Nil (The Nile Son) which was brought in the 1951 Venice Film Festival. In 1953, he released Sera ‘a Fil Wadi (Struggle in the Valley) and Bab el Hadid (Central Station) in 1958. The latter was a different one since he took the lead role who was a newspaper vendor in the train station and whose love lead in killing the female character. The Egyptians who were used in watching melodramas was disturbed with the film and rejected it. For 20 years, it was not shown in Egypt. On that same year, he was known as the most exciting film maker in the Arab world (http://www.al-bab.com/media/cinema/film2.htm).In 1963, he made Saladin which is an epic and a three hour film about a 12th century Sultan and it was followed by Dawn of the New Day in 1964. By 1965, he created the best musical comedy in the Arab Cinema, it was entitled “The Ring Seller”. The delay of the film presentation and the failure to achieve box-office of the film “Sands of Gold” in 1967 caused him to go back in his Native Land (http://www.youssefchahine.us/).Youssef Chahine suffered from heart attack in the mid 1970s and that made him leave his career and the days spent of being away from the production made himre-examine the way his career goes. When he finally returned in the scene, he started with the first movie which is part of a trilogy. It was entitled Iskindria . . . Leh? (Alexandria . . . Why?) which won a prize in the Berlin Film Festival in 1978. It was followed by  Hadota Misreya (An Egyptian Story) in 1982 and the last of the trilogy was released in 1990 with the title,  Iskindiriah Kaman Oue Kaman (Alexandria Again and Forever).Although his films were already known in the Middle East, it was not until Jean Louis Bory organized screenings in Paris of Chahine’s movies. His films are considered controversial for a number of reasons. From all film amkers in Egypt, he was considered as the most independednt when it comes to Arab Film Making. He kept in making movies that will raise disturbing issues in the society.He battled with conservative Islams regarding the kinds of movie he makes wherein these conservatives kept on giving objection with his themes and images he shows. The most controversial film he ever had was “The Emigrant” which was released in 1994. It was a story inspired from Joseph, a biblical character and the son of Jacob. There was indeed a debate inhis use of a biblical character which was opposed by the fundamentalists. It was not new to him that his movies were accompanied by controversy. Remember that back on the days of the Cairo station’s film presentation, many egyptians opposed and it was banned.In 1997, he was given a lifetime achievement award in the Cannes Festival as they celebrate the festival’s 50th anniversary. Now, at the age of 81, he was able to finish his 45th film entitled Heya Fawda and will be released in Egypt early of 2008. This film was chosen to participate in the Venice Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.In an interview, he mentioned that the inspiration in making a film can be seen in observing the people around you using a sympathetic eye. He mentioned that a story is interesting if you love the peole and every people have with them a magnificent story and the most importatnt thing to do is learn how to listen to the story and later tell it (http://www.youssefchahine.us/).ReferencesARAB CINEMA: YOUSSEF CHAHINE. (2003). retrieved May 13, 2008.http://www.al-bab.com/media/cinema/film2.htmFarina, Alberto. Biography for Youssef Chahine. IMDb Mini Biography. (2008). retrieved May 13,       2008.  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0149631/bioThe official Website of  YOUSSEF CHAHIN. retrieved May 13, 2008.     http://www.youssefchahine.us/