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Farewell Joe: Legendary Egyptian Filmmaker Chahine dies
By Aladdin Elaasar — Egyptian moviemaker Youssef Chahine, 82, has died, in Cairo on Sunday after falling into a coma following a brain hemorrhage. Chahine, who was born into a Christian family originating from Lebanon, enjoyed a career spanning almost 60 years and was considered to be one of Egypt’s top filmmakers.
Chahine won international acclaim for his work in pioneering Egypt’s film industry and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at France’s Cannes International Film Festival in 1997. He was nominated for the Cannes International Film Festival’s most prestigious prize, the Palm D’or, three times, and the Venice Film Festival in Italy’s Golden Lion for his final film ( Is It a Chaos?), in 2007.
He made 42 films in his lifetime, including 1985’s Adieu Bonaparte, 1997’s Destiny, and September 11, but he is perhaps best known for 1969’s The Land.
Chahine is also credited with launching the career of fellow Egyptian legend Omar Sharif who shot to fame with roles in 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago in 1965.
He went on Felliniesque flights of fancy and tackled social ills and Islamic fundamentalism, was not always so treasured in his homeland, and his films often drew controversy for their sexual overtones and their criticism of political oppression.
In 1994, his movie The Emigrant, based on the Biblical story of Joseph, was banned in Egypt after a fundamentalist lawyer argued the film was a depiction of a prophet – an action that is banned in most Islamic countries.
Born in 1926, in Alexandria, Egypt, dreamed of the cinema and theatre, and watched Hollywood musicals. Chahine began his education at Les Frères’, the French missionary school. He continued his studies at the Victoria College, an aristocratic school where the late king Hussein of Jordan, Edward Said and Queen Victoria of Spain studied. In 1946 left to study drama in California at the Pasadena Playhouse where stars like Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman studies
Chahine’s early films in Egypt included Raging Sky (1953), begun while Farouk was still King and dealing with a peasant farmer’s challenge to a feudal landlord. In 1963 Chahine made Saladin ( an epic, three-hour film in Cinema Scope named after the 12th Century Sultan who fighting the Crusaders headed by Richard The Lion Hearted. It was scripted by Noble Peace Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. In his movie, he the Sparrow criticized the Nasser’s regime corruption in Egypt and blamed it for the defeat in the Six Day War.
In 1992 Jacques Lassalle approached him to stage a piece of his choice for Comédie Française: Chahine chose to adapt Albert Camus‘ Caligula, which proved hugely successful. Chahine’s popularity in France, which co-produced many of his movies, was expressed by French President Sarkozy eulogizing Cahine as “a great loss of a legendary filmmaker“.
(Aladdin Elaasar is an award winning Arab American journalist and author of several books including ” Silent Victims: The plight of Arabs and Muslims in Post 9/11 America.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
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