“Al Mumiah”: addressing a problem not as challenging at the time it was produced. What if Shadi Abdel Salam, the piece’s director, lived it in our time?

October 25, 2009 at 12:32 am (Weekly Posts) (, , , , , )

Part of of the section that hosts Shadi Abdel Salam, the Al Mumiah film director, in the Library of Alexandria.

Part of of the section that hosts Shadi Abdel Salam, the Al Mumiah film director, in the Library of Alexandria.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Egyptian film, “Al Mumia'” also aka “The Night of Counting the Years” was screened by the Film Department at the American University in Cairo on Tuesday October 20th. The film is directed by Egyptian director, script-writer and costume and set designer Shadi Abdel Salam, who has a special section for his works in the Library of Alexandria.

When I visited the library and came across this section, I was amazed at the works of this director, for the section has the designs he did for some famous Egyptian movies. The designs were very distinguished. Besides, this section included pieces of his home such as the desk where he used to do the designs… etc. So, hearing of the screening of a movie that he directed, wrote the script and made the designs for was to me a chance that shouldn’t be missed.

I found lots of my friends going as well with one difference. They were going for an assignment while I was going just for the fun of it, and of course it came across my mind that I’d blog on it.

A shot from the movie in black and white, yet the version screened at the AUC was in colors, so you can see the make-up lines of Egyptian actress, Nadia Lotfi.

A shot from the movie in black and white, yet the version screened at the AUC was in colors, so you can see the make-up lines of Egyptian actress, Nadia Lotfi.

For one thing, I was bored to death of its slow pace. I was trying to hang in there and see the point behind it. The director seems to be established. But I couldn’t help it and I napped in the middle to wake up and find out that I didn’t really miss a lot. However, I liked everything about the film from the script that was written in Arabic Fosha that is not usually used in most of Egyptian films, to the camera angles and the use of close-ups, to the cast’s make-up to the colors of the camera they used for shooting … everything.

Above all, the plot was very interesting. The film is based on a true story of the discovery of 40 royal mummies in Thebes, Luxor now. Before the discovery of those mummies, the Antiquities Department in Cairo has been aware that some objects of those mummies tombs have been traded in the black market by a tribe called “Horabat” to whom the place of these mummies and tombs is a confined secret. And, they have been living off selling those antiquities in the black market until the tribe’s chief’s son is told about it and falls into the dilemma of continuing this trade or reporting about it.

The film was meant to raise the issue of the Egyptian identity and how it is being lost with the English occupation. The whole film, archaeologists are being referred to as “strangers”. It wasn’t known who is looked at as an Egyptian and who is not. For this symbolism, besides the techniques that were extraordinary at the time, the film has gained wide recognition.

Here is what famous director Martin Scorsese said about the film “Al Mumia has an extremely unusual tone – stately, poetic, with a powerful grasp of time and the sadness it carries.”

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