I wrote the below review of Youseff Chahine’s ALEXANDRIA… WHY? for Cine-File Chicago. It screens at Doc Films this Monday night.


Youssef Chahine’s ALEXANDRIA… WHY? (Egyptian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Monday, 7pm (Free Admission)

In 1979, Youssef Chahine, the most famous of all Egyptian filmmakers, created a scandal with this taboo-busting autobiographical epic, the first of a trilogy that would include 1982’s AN EGYPTIAN STORY and 1989’s ALEXANDRIA, AGAIN AND FOREVER. ALEXANDRIA… WHY? recreates, with impressive period detail, the director’s hometown of Alexandria during the outbreak of World War II. The story interweaves the lives of many characters, chief among them Yehia Mustafa, a teen-aged student and movie lover (and stand-in for Chahine) who nurses his first stirrings of creativity as an actor and director in local theatrical productions. Two other narrative strands involve characters experiencing forbidden love: a Jewish woman who embarks on an affair with a Muslim man and, in the film’s most controversial angle at the time of its release, a gay English soldier who becomes involved with a rich Arab. But these personal stories are always juxtaposed against a wider political and historical context, as Chahine deftly uses stock footage of the war, clips from Hollywood musicals (which Yehia uses as a means to escape from the nightmare around him) and the depiction of air raids, black market activity, and interactions between Egyptian civilians and soldiers of the occupational British army. A supreme masterpiece of world cinema. (1979, 133 min, DCP Digital) MGS

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

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