Over the course of more than half a century, Egypt's most acclaimed director tirelessly innovated the modern fabric of Arab cinema, with each film more daring than its predecessor.
Youssef Chahine's unique style and bold choices not only artistically represented his region's voice and communicated it to the world, they paved the way for the future of Arab films. On the anniversary of his birthday, we remember 10 of Chahine's most groundbreaking works.
1.Sira' Fi Al-Wadi (The Blazing Sky) - 1954
In the Egyptian cinema gem that launched Omar Sharif's career, Chahine portrays family rivalry in the Egyptian countryside through the love story between the two leads, played by Sharif and Faten Hamama.
2. Bab El-Hadid (Cairo Station) - 1958
In the neo-realist drama that is considered Chahine's ultimate masterpiece, the director weaves a psychological thriller from a love triangle between three complex characters working in Cairo's train station, played by Hend Rostom, Farid Chawky and Chahine himself.
3. Al-Nasser Salah Al-Din (Saladin the Victorious) - 1963
In this epic historical drama based on Naguib Mahfouz's work, Chahine tells the story of Saladin's reclamation of Jerusalem from the Christian Crusaders in the 12th century, starring Ahmed Mazhar as Saladin alongside Nadia Lutfi and Salah Zulfikar.
The film drew parallels between Arab power during Saladin's time and the sentiment of Arab unity and pan-Arab nationalism that was prominent in the Arab World during the 1960s.
4. Al-Ard (The Land) - 1969
In the drama that is based on Abdel Rahman Al-Sharqawi's famous novel and starred Hamdy Ahmed and Yehia Chahine, Chahine revisits the world of the Egyptian countryside through the story of a rural village's struggle against the individual interests of its powerful landowners.
5. Al-Ekhteyar (The Choice) - 1970
In the drama co-written by Mahfouz and Chahine, the director crafts an elaborate murder mystery starring Soad Hosny and Ezzat El-Alayly that reflects conflicting societal ideals and beliefs.
6. Awdet Al-Ibn Al-Daal (Return of The Prodigal Son) - 1976
In the drama based on French writer Andre Gide's novel and co-written by Salah Jahin, Chahine tackled the 1967 Six-Day War through the story of a young man who goes home to his family after leaving to chase his dreams on a path that eventually led to his destruction. Chahine and Jahin used the family's turmoil as a metaphor for the events of the war.
7. Eskenderyah... Leh? (Alexandria... Why?) - 1978
In the autobiographical drama that won the prestigious Silver Bear Award at the 29th Berlin International Film Festival, Chahine tackles his own upbringing in his hometown, Alexandria, through a complex story that draws a picture of Egyptian society during World War II.
8. Hadduta Masriya (An Egyptian Tale) - 1982
The film is the second installment in Chahine's autobiographical "Alexandria quartet", which started with "Eskenderyah... Leh?" and ended with "Eskenderyah - New York" (2004).
The drama, which starred Nour El-Sherif, Yousra and Mohamed Mounir, revisited the main characters from the first installment as it depicted the succeeding stage in the history of both Chahine's own life and his country, as well as the relationship between the two.
9. Al-Massir (Destiny) - 1997
In the acclaimed historical drama, Chahine delves into the intellectual world of 12th century Andalusia through the eyes of the prominent Muslim philosopher and scholar Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Played by Nour El-Sherif, the character struggles to defy opposing ideologies. The film was more or less defined by the theme of intellectual warfare.
10. Al-Akhar (The Other) -1999
In the melodrama, Chahine tackled the dark side of business ambitions through the love story between the son of a rich businessman and a young writer who is trying to expose the wrongdoings of society's wealthy elite, played by Hani Salama and Hanan Tork.