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Al Massir, the Destiny of Ideas...
"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".
El Akhar (1999)
Chahine attracts more spectators, but....
L'Autre (Al Akhar as we say it in Arabic) succeeded in attracting more people who were never big fans of Chahine's previous movies. But on the other hand, the majority of Chahine's fans didn't like the movie, or at least they said:"May be it is a good movie, but not Chahine's", and I am one of them. The characters in the movie are not deeply described, symbols used in each character are most of the times superficial. Fans of Chahine used to watch his movies to spend 2 hours of deep thinking and analysis, not only of the artistic way and the impressive mise-en-scene of Chahine - which were very good in l'Autre also - but also for the revolutionary ideas and the "Deep Diving" he used to make in his characters and the strong contradictions inside one character as well as between different characters. L'Autre was Me versus The Other, but this Me was not surely Me, and the other was too much the Other. And to understand this, just compare this Other with Chahine's Others in Salaadin 1956,and Adieu Bonaparte 1984. I was never a fan of Nabila Ebeid, but I have to admit she played a very good role. Mahmoud Hemeida was very good in a role that did not show most of his strong capabilities. Hani Salama made big progress from EL Massir.