Shadia as Salwa and Choukri Sahran as Imâm in A Woman's Youth / Chabab Imraa, Salah Abou Seif, Egypt, 1956; 126m.
Photo courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center
NEW YORK • Walter Reade Theater • Ongoing
|Over the past decade, a new phase of Arab filmmaking has emerged, what might be called a "cinema of individuals." Cairo Tales is a 6-film retrospective of the work of seminal writer-director Saleh Abou Seif and a 13-film survey of contemporary filmmaking from across the Arab world.|
The 13-film survey includes films made in a wide range of Arab countries, such as Morocco, Palestine, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Syria. They represent a wide variety of styles and approaches, a sense that these are filmmakers unafraid of openly exploring their societies, and reveal hard or unpleasant truths in the process. These films are the best response to the mistaken perception that the Arab world is some kind of ideological monolith, reluctant to engage in self-analysis or self-criticism. From homosexuality to political oppression, from women’s rights to religious fundamentalism — they present societies far more complex and contradictory than many imagine.
Critic Ibrahim al-Ariss once described the emerging generation of Arab filmmakers as "the children of Coca-Cola, the streets and Salah Abou Seif" — such was the impact of this most distinguished Egyptian filmmaker, whose penetrating, unsparing portraits of Egyptian life and society set the standard for socially engaged artists.
Born in 1915 in Cairo — the city that would form the essential background for his greatest films — Abou Seif began working in cinema as a teenager, becoming the head of Studio Misr’s editing department by the time he was 20. In 1939 he co-wrote the screenplay for Kamal Selim’s legendary Determination (Al-Azima), often called the first Egyptian realist film. Abou Seif’s own turn would come in 1946, when he directed the musical Forever in My Heart, a remake of Waterloo Bridge.
Abou Seif would then form a creative partnership with Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz, working on over a dozen films together. In addition, he worked with other writers in adapting some of Mahfouz’s novels for the screen. Both shared a passion for Cairo, as well as a belief that art could serve as a valuable guide in rapidly changing societies; our retrospective includes two examples of their work together, I Am Free and Cairo 30.
Film Society of Lincoln Center Web Site
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