Tribute to Youssef Chahine

1942, Alexandria. Egypt, under British domination, awaits the arrival of German troops; the battle of El Alamein is imminent. Yehia, an adolescent who is a fan of American films, wants to become an actor and is preparing to put on a show with his friends at the Catholic high school.  

Youssef Chahine, Egyptian filmmaker (born Jan. 25, 1926, Alexandria, Egypt—died July 27, 2008, Cairo, Egypt), crafted more than 40 films, including musicals, dramas, comedies, and historical epics. Much of his work, however, was critical of the Egyptian government and condemned social oppression and religious fanaticism; his willingness to tackle risky subjects caused some of his films to be censored. Chahine directed his first film, Baba Amin (Father Amine), in 1950. Perhaps his most prominent works were Bab el hadid (1958; Cairo: Central Station) and the autobiographical Alexandria trilogy—Iskanderija lih? (1978; AlexandriaWhy?), Hadduta misrija (1982; An Egyptian Story), and Iskanderija, kaman oue kaman (1990; Alexandria Again and Forever)—and its follow-up, Alexandria New York (2004). He was honoured in 1997 with a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Festival, and his final film, Heya fawda (2007; Chaos), was screened at the Toronto and Venice film festivals.