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Egyptian Film Week features film master Youssef Chahine

The "Egyptian Film Week 2006", to be held from Friday (October 27) to Monday (October 30) at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum, features representative works from film master of Egyptian Cinema, Youssef Chahine.

Chahine won the 50th Anniversary Prize (Prix du Cinquantieme) – Lifetime Achievement Award of Cannes Film Festival 1997.

The renowned director has been dominating Egyptian cinema for more than half a century and is still making films. Chahine's works are rich in genres and many of his films have been screened in Europe, especially France, winning awards in various film festivals.

The "Egyptian Film Week 2006" is a joint presentation by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Consulate General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Hong Kong to mark the 50th anniversary of Egypt-China Diplomatic Relations.

Representative works of Chahine at significant phases of his career including "My One and Only Love", "The Land", "The Return of the Prodigal Son", "An Egyptian Story", "Alexandria Again and Forever" and "Sleepless Night", a recent work by Chahine's protégée, Hany Khalifa will be screened to give audience a well-rounded impression of Egyptian cinema and culture.

Free admission tickets for most of the screenings have already been distributed and taken. A small quantity of admission tickets is still available at the enquiry counters of the Hong Kong Science Museum and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Each person can request a maximum of two tickets per screening on a first-come, first served basis.

Born in Alexandria in 1926, Chahine studied film and theatre at the Pasadena Play House in the United States. Returning to Egypt in 1948, he started documentary filmmaking and after his directorial début with "Baba Amin" in 1950, he has been a dominant figure in Egyptian cinema in the past few decades.

In 2002, he and other renowned filmmakers were invited to make the omnibus "11'09"01 – September 11 (2002)" in commemoration of 9/11. His contribution offered an alternative voice from the perspective of the Arab world.

Being the first Arab to shoot international blockbusters, he was not only a representative figure in Egyptian cinema but also a spokesman for Arab film and culture. His works range from contemporary melodrama to costume dramas with spectacular song and dance numbers, from social realism to fantasy.

Although Chahine was fascinated with Hollywood, most of his works conveyed a strong political and social message, commenting on social injustice as well as religious, cultural and historical issues in the Arab world. His passion for cinema, his nostalgia for American films and his affection for his country are all reflected in his works.

The opening film "The Land" (1969), which was nominated for Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival 1970, is his early work reflecting his concern for grassroots and disadvantaged classes. Taking eight years to complete, the film addresses the perennial and universal issue of feudalistic society where landlords conspire with corrupt government officials to exploit poor peasants.

"The One and Only Love" (1957) is a heartfelt romantic piece. A couple decide to get married for the sake of their grandpa’s inheritance. Accompanying them on their honeymoon are their former lovers. Will they still stick together after all the twists and turns?

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" (1976) is Chahine's most critical work, lashing out at social injustice and corruption. Release after imprisonment for 12 years, Ali is not willing to help right the wrongs of his tyrannical brother.

"An Egyptian Story" (1982) and "Alexandria Again and Forever" (1990) are known as the second and third of Chahine's "Alexandria Trilogy", his semi-autobiography. In "An Egyptian Story", a famous director Yehia has a heart attack and all his buried thoughts and struggles on the conflicts between art and commercial, ideal and reality surface while he lies in surgery. His operation goes smoothly but he still has to face personal problems relating to his family. The film was an official selection at the Venice Film Festival.

"Alexandria Again and Forever" also features Yehia who intends to adapt "Hamlet" to the big screen but one of his cast, Amr, prefers to star in a crass TV soap. Fortunately, Yehia meets the beautiful actress and changes his screen adaptation to "Cleopatra". The film won the Special Award for Cinematography at Cairo International Film Festival 1989.

Directed by Hany Khalifa, "Sleepless Night" is hailed as the epitome of the Egyptian new wave. It has attracted attention for its bold treatment, not only of the sex scenes, but also of the innovative and beautifully crafted multiple narrative structures. The film won the Best Actor and Best Actress at the Damascus Film Festival 2003 and Best Actor and Best Actress, Biennial of Arab Cinema, Paris 2004.

All films are in Arabic with English subtitles. For programme information call 2734 2900 or visit

Ends/Wednesday, October 25, 2006
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