Egyptian film-maker Youssef Chahine passed away the day before yesterday. You can find many elegies online. Personally, I consider "Bab Al Hadeed" one of the best movies I've seen--on a par with classic post-war Italian neo-realist films. His documentary on Cairo--"Al Qahera munwwara bi Ahlaha" ("Cairo Illuminated by its People") is a lovely, subtle, complex tribute to the city. And he's authored many classics, like "Al Ard" and others I have to admit I haven't seen yet. But Chahine's later career has always struck me as a story of talent somehow squandered--I'm not sure why. None of his later films are on a par with his early, brilliant work--some are positively bad. While I enjoyed "Heyya Fauda" ("Chaos"), his latest feature film, it had none of the insight, naturalism or originality of his earlier work. On the contrary, it bears all too much the mark of his protege Khaled Youssef, whose heavy-handed, sensationalistic and formally mediocre work has reaped a recent--and to me, utterly confounding--success.
The Arabist is published and edited by Issandr El Amrani, a writer and analyst based in Cairo, with contributions by friends.
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