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Al-massir
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Reviews & Ratings for
Destiny More at IMDbPro »Al-massir (original title)

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Al Massir, the Destiny of Ideas...

8/10
Author: Moheb from Egypt
10 March 2000

"The Ideas have Wings, you can never stop them from reaching the people".

That was Al Massir, or the Destiny of Youssef Chahine. After his previous movie "El Mohager", Chahine was taken to court by a fundamentalist lawyer who claimed that Chahine presented the prophet Joseph in this movie and this is something forbidden "To show prophets on the screen" by Al Azhar. The lawyer wanted the court to stop showing the movie on the Egyptian screens as well as its distribution outside Egypt.

Regardless of the final conclusion of the court, this case was the major motive behind the script of "Al Massir". Jo (Chahine) wanted to send a clear message to this people "You can never stop ideas from reaching the people, neither by burning the books (last scene of the movie), nor by forbidding movies, etc....' As usual, Averoes in this movie was Chahine himself. Trying to keep a good balance between what the history says about Averoes and what Chahine wanted to reflect on this character, he chose his characters to include all the contradictions he wanted to show. Politics, philosophy, love, integrism, etc.... they are everywhere. This idea of combining Islam with Terrorism bothers Chahine, that is why he started the movie with the french religious authorities burning a man who "Translated the books of this Averoes", so don't you be surprised when Muslims burn "Only" the books of Averoes. This analysis of Chahine is what really makes the movie special. It was expected after what happened to him in his last movie (as I said in the beginning), he could have just make it a good reason for a movie showing Muslims as Terrorists, an easy way to attract a Western spectator. But Jo chose the hard way to do it, showing that among all this terrorism, people are still "Life lovers" as mentioned by the first song. These people who just love their life were those fighting against terrorist - not with weapons - but with love. "We have to know first why they are doing this', said Averoes. Actors were really good specially Nour Elsherif, Mahmoud Hemeida, Khaled Elnabawi and Ahmed Fouad Selim. Mohamed Mounir is as usual the voice of Chahine singing "Sing out loud, we still can sing".

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A movie about the past, but highly topical as well as instructive about the present

10/10
Author: guanche from New York City
14 August 2003

This film is an entertaining and thrilling mix of melodrama, music, history, grief and joy, showing the best and worst sides of human nature.

The story is set in medieval Moorish Spain, and concerns the conflict between Averroes; a historical humanistic Muslim philosopher; and a group of reactionary fundamentalists. It is extremely well acted and the characters are sympathetic as well as credible. It is often forgotten that many of the Islamic societies of the Middle Ages (particularly in Spain) were way ahead of Europe in science, mathematics, medicine, religious tolerance and most intellectual pursuits. However, there were periodic and sometimes serious conflicts with those who resented these trends.

This is not just an historical epic. The Egyptian director, a very courageous man named Youssef Chanine, deliberately molded the script to show how fanaticism not only undermines a society's intellect, but destroys the very souls of its members. Particularly disturbing, but highly relevant to our times is his portrayal of the subtle manner in which young men are recruited into these movements and about how empty and dishonest they turn out to be.

Although the population of medieval Andalusia was 10-15% Jewish and Averroes had extensive contact with both Jewish and Christian intellectuals, there isn't a Jew in sight and the only Christians depicted are evil, fanatical, external enemies who enter into a secret pact with the fundamentalist cult. While this is not entirely accurate and a gross simplification of the actual situation at the time, I don't fault Mr. Chanine. He has endured extreme legal harassment in the Egyptian courts over this and another film as well as extensive death threats against himself and his family. Merely exploring the themes portrayed in this movie has put his head on the chopping block, and any sympathetic depiction of Jews or Christians would have resulted in the banning of the film and possibly his head rolling into the basket. He deliberately crafted this film to educate his own society about the moral corruption and debasement of violent fanatical behavior and no doubt wanted to make sure the message got out.

A bold, yet gently provocative film by a very brave man.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Brave, exuberant filmmaking

10/10
Author: claude-18 from Woodstock, NY
17 March 1999

Americans and Europeans should treat themselves to the courageous joy of this infectious film, if you can find it. If you're looking for Latcho Drom with a great story, this is it!

Destiny is singularly beautiful in that it celebrates humanist passions and ideas as they were once allowed to be expressed in the Islamic culture of 12th century Spain. The Egyptian director Youssef Chahine ventures this anti-fundamentalist statement in a contemporary cultural climate where fundamentalism is on the rise. It exposes the street fascism and subtle eroticism that seduces young men into such sects.

Destiny is exuberant. It has humor, music, dancing, free thinking dialogue, intriguing sets and architecture and, most of all, the ensemble portrayal of a joyful philosophic community whose members you can really grow to love. All the earthly things fundamentalists detest!

Chahine deserves a larger world audience, by virtue of his bravery and outspoken-ness. He argues at risk of his own life in this film. If Akira Kurosawa could be embraced so wholeheartedly by the international community, so should Chahine. This film is a landmark. I hope financing from our part of the world will find its way to him. He has guts and passion.

The film itself is like nothing else you will see made on these shores. It is emotionally unabashed. Our western ideals of coolness and hipness restrict many of our directors and actors. Passion is too often reserved for climactic moments, and commonly those moments are angry intimidation or vengeance scenes sparked by the Pacino clones of the world. Much of the actor's job is running and posing. In Destiny, the actors are not posing - they are joyfully uninhibited and alive!

Recommended highly!! Vigorous entertainment. Brave ideas. Exotic sets. Bold, hand-hewn directorial craftsmanship. Great true story. And your only chance to see 12th century Andalusian culture come alive!

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

"Destiny" -- a pushy-pushy review ...

Author: cayzedo from NYC, USA
1 June 2002

Mr. Chahine is masterful and downright crafty in pushing forward his message for cosmopolitan rationality vs. parochial fanaticism: Starting from a telegraphed overview of historical events, ideological currents and characters from the two-century period (XI-XII) in Andalusia that saw a wave of North-African fundamentalist mercenary Berbers wrestle power away from the weakened remnants of the enlightened Umayyad dynasty, he made a deceivingly simple parable using old-time Hollywood formats and entertainment values à la `Thief of Baghdad.' Chahine is thus successfully addressing matters of dense philosophical and political import under the guise of an almost infantile entertainment. The plot, furthermore, echoes `Fahrenheit 451' and its overall ideological stance is reminiscent of ‘A Man for All Seasons.' On the other hand, seeing its `musical' values as a bow to Hollywood is merely scratching at the surface, since it must be kept in mind that poetry in song – the obsessive discipline of enlightened Islam – was the most efficient vehicle for the birth and expansion of all values appropriated by Christian Western (read, European) civilization. Hence, the formal solution signifies much more than the surface. On the other hand, Chahine ties the past quite neatly -- through his storytelling and filmmaking craft -- with current world events and thought convolutions. For example, the stabbing of the bard character in Destiny couldn't be less than a painful fictionalization of the fundamentalist attack on the contemporary Egyptian novelist Mafouz. El Massir is an important piece of work, and I think everyone who is at all concerned or curious about the nature of the global forces at work today should take a long and detained look at it. This film carries a hefty punch and – what's best -- you can barely feel it, as the masterful handling of the narrative, in terms of nothing but an entertaining parable, lets the dense message flow without any pretensions of `avant-garde' stylist truculence. M

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A great film with many facettes

10/10
Author: manuel-23 from Munich, Germany
1 November 1999

A film which will probably find many emphatic spectators due to its many facettes: * You might like historic films - this one shows you live of Andalusia in the 12th century with rich costumes and great islamic buildings; * you might prefer deep content - this film offers insight in the philosophy of the great muslem thinker Averroes (Ibn-Rushed) and the question why people get seducted by sects; * you might be interested in action, love and happy-end - this film offers as a story the conspiracy against the caliph, and happily ends with two couples that found each other (though very sensitively shown, compared to occidental films); * you might generally be interested how other cultures do films - this is a great example of oriental (Egyptian) cinema, which is close enough to be understood be occidental people; * you might like to follow personal development of the characters shown in the film - this one gives you insight in the development of the caliph's two sons: from "take all easy" to "use your own head to think". *** This film can be highly recommended !!! ***

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece of the modern Egyptian movie making

9/10
Author: khachaba from Cairo Egypt
24 January 1999

The movie is simply great. So beautiful, so entertaining, so well-made. As beautiful as I had expected from yousef shaheen, the director, as a leader of the modern Egyptian movie making. The ideal declared by the film is a throbbing hot one. Liberal thought and freedom from all pre-made and superimposed thought is a subject that I never saw treated in such an open manner, especially in a conservative society like the Egyptian one. The Camera playing, the lighting modules, the music, the positioning of the right song in the right situation are all points that count on the director's side. The scene where the Khaleefa says: "I'm the Andalus" with him being zoomed out to appear dotted in the centre of the screen, is one scene that I don't think will forget. The actors choice was also very successful. If you have never seen an Egyptian film before, this is a good one to start with.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A sublime, colorful musical

10/10
Author: Cath-10 from France
11 November 1998

This is a wonderful movie on tolerance. Chahine shows how the powers of dance, happiness and erudition oppose the dark forces of obscurantism and fanatism. Not only is the movie never rhetorically boring, but it is full of joy and music, making you feel like dancing ! This is definitely a masterpiece.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

much more than only pitoresc

9/10
Author: pantunes from porto, portugal
24 December 1999

Ocidentals tend to see other cultures as exotic and bizarre. This is a lesson about Europe and Muslims, about Mourish culture in Iberia and about religious extremism and freedom of thinking. I loved it. My country would be much more poor if it had not been included in Mourish Iberia in a time when christians were in the dark age. The music is fabulous. I'm very curious about other works from Youssef Chahine but unfortunally i don't believe they will ever be in Portuguese cinemas.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

If you haven't seen this, you're missing out!

9/10
Author: Just van der Hoeven from Amsterdam
4 March 1999

This Egyptian, French production is really my favourite film. It just touches you. The way a modern theme, fundementalism is placed in a 14th century setting without losing any of the sharp edges involving the subject. If you're in to political engaged movies, watch this one. If you're in to musicals, watch this one. If you're in to historical movies, watch this one. If you're in to Arab movies, watch this one. It just keeps your attention throughout the entire movie. It's a happy movie but yet has a heavy tone. And, God I like them Tambourines!

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Entertaining, compelling

8/10
Author: Andres Salama from Buenos Aires, Argentina
22 September 2014

Egyptian director Youssef Chahine biopic of Arab philosopher Averroes (who lived in Andalusia during the 1100s) is surprisingly compelling, with fine production values, including a lavish color cinematography (this was a co production with France that won awards at the Cannes film festival in 1997). Averroes (played by Nour el Sheriff) is seen in the movie, avant la lettre, as a wise champion of rationality and against fundamentalism. Aside having to fight the intrigue of fundamentalists, he has to do some optical experiments and also has to deal with family problems, a misguided caliph, and Christian troops eager to attack Andalusia. The movie also includes ridiculous but charming musical interludes reminiscent of Indian movies.

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