Egypt's film legend, Youssif Chahine, dies

Other News Materials 27 July 2008 16:59 (UTC +04:00)

Egypt's distinguished filmmaker, Youssef Chahine, died Sunday, aged 82, after lying in a coma caused by a brain haemorrhage for weeks, the dpa reported.

Chahine was flown to Paris for treatment but returned to Cairo 10 days ago.

After he studied acting in the Pasadena Playhouse in Los Angeles, California, Chahine began his lengthy career in filmmaking in the 1950s. By then Egypt's film industry had established itself as the Hollywood of the Middle East.

His career was launched in earnest in 1951 when his second film "The Nile's Son" was screened at the Venice Film Festival.

Chahine's highly acclaimed film "Alexandria Why?" - the first of his autobiographical trilogy - won the special jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 1978.

The film is set during World War II when Alexandria, his hometown, was still under British colonial rule.

"His technique of inter-cutting the action with scenes from Hollywood musicals and newsreel footage from the Imperial War Museum in London is as successful as it is audacious, and the transitions of mood are brilliantly handled," according to an essay in International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers.

His second film in the trilogy "An Egyptian Story" released in 1982 also won a Berlin Film Festival Prize.

In the 1990s, Chahine began tackling thorny issues, such as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. In one such films, "The Emigrant" released in 1994, Chahine was inspired by the biblical story of the Prophet Joseph.

For several weeks, the film was a success in Egypt until it was pulled out of movie theatres by a court order. A fundamentalist group won a court case it filed against Chahine for producing what it said was a blasphemous film.

From then on, Chahine continued to take on the provocative theme of religious intolerance and Islamic fundamentalism.

"All my projects are high risk, and I fight like mad. I spend 80 per cent of my time on politics, 20 per cent making movies," Chahine said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune.

Chahine won the 1997 Cannes Film Festival's special Lifetime Achievement Award for his body of work, which had been awarded to cinema legends, such as Orson Welles and Luchino Visconti.