With all the turmoil in Egypt currently, following the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi, I decided to highlight famous Egyptian director, Youssef Chahine.
Egypt is known for supporting filmmaking to promote nationalism, since the late 1930s, and many films are about class struggle. So I believe that this Egyptian revolution was a long time coming especially using media to promote national pride and the voices of the disadvantaged.
Chahine is one of the more well-known Egyptian filmmakers. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1926 and learned acting in Los Angeles. He won a lifetime achievement award from Cannes in 1997.
Chahine made films from 1950 to 2007 including Saladin (1963), The Sparrow (1972), Alexandria, Why (1978) and my favorite, Cairo Station (1958).
Cairo Station takes place over the course of a day at a train station, in the capital and largest city in Egypt. The main character, Qinawi lives near the train station in the heart of Cairo. There are a plethora of characters that are poor and rich, rural and urban, and Qinawi is the lowest class of them all, because he is disabled, and he falls in love (and becomes obsessed) with the local soda seller, who is destined to marry the station labor organizer.
The film observes abuse, class struggle, and labor unionization issues.
I should say that Cairo Station has a lot of similarities to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, although Psycho was made two years after Cairo Station.
The film is available on Amazon.
Other great Egyptian films about class struggles:
- Determination [al-azima] (1939) - A wonderful and extremely rare film about a young man who just finished school and is trying to better his life.
- Night of the Counting Years (1969) - Beautiful film, restored by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation and has screened in New York a couple times, most recently at BAM. The film is about a rural town in the desert with a dark secret.
- The Yacoubian Building (2006) - Recent film that also talks about socio-economic issues. People and personalities clash. Based on the novel by Alaa al-Aswany.
Take a look at the trailer for Cairo Station below: