صلاح أبو سيف وتجذير الواقعية والتنوير في السينما المصرية / Salah Abu Seif and the Cultivation of Realism and Enlightenment in Egyptian Cinema



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النحاس, هاشم; al-Nahhas, Hashem

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[Salah Abu Seif, born in 1915, is considered the prominent leader of the realist school in Egyptian cinema. He has been consistent in his forty and some odd films to principles of enlightening and recovering the real. His films, their subject matter and techniques, have evolved but the author of the article manages to detect convincingly a common thread which brings them all together, namely realism and commitment to rational and social criticism. The variety of films directed by Abu Seif springs from the fact that he takes into consideration reception aesthetics and understands the limits of his audience, without ever compromising his stance. Thus he has films that are unflinchingly realistic, showing the misery of the poor against the setting of popular quarters (The Beast, 1954); others focus on the details of middle-class life (I am Free, 1959); and yet others on class contradictions between peasants and feudal lords on one hand (al-Usta Hasan, 1952), and the horrors of capitalist monopolies on the other hand (al-Futtuwa, 1957). Salah Abu Seif has been claimed as a socialist as well as denounced for having represented taboo subjects such as the body (This is Love, 1958) and gender issues (The Agony of Love, 1960). The multiplicity of themes in his work stems from his desire to cover the richness and myriad experiences of Egyptian life. Some of his films tended towards naturalism (Rayya and Sakina, 1953), romanticism (The Empty Pillow, 1957), and even lyricism (The Water-carrier Died, 1977); but within these orientations Abu Seif remains loyal to representing the social fabric of the society, bringing the spectator to the real world so as to question her or his reality. By making controversial films (especially No Time for Love, 1962) that can be grasped by the general spectator, Abu Seif has contributed to the on-going debate on change, development and film theory. Many of Abu Seif's films are based on novels written by Naguib Mahfouz, Ihsan 'Abdel Quddus, Yusuf al-Siba'i, Yusuf al-Qa'id among others. His position vis-à-vis Egyptian cinema is parallel to that of the Nobel Laureate Mahfouz in relation to Arabic literature: prolific and monumental. He has not only left his impact on his generation of realist directors, but also on the new generation of film-makers who have become by now established: Shadi 'Abdel Salam, Ra'fat al-Mihi, Muhammad Khan, Ashraf Fahmi, 'Ali Badr Khan, 'Atif al-Tayyeb, 'Ali 'Abdel Khaliq and Dawud 'Abdel Sayyid--many of whom were students of his or assistants in his film-making. The new wave directors, such as Sharif 'Arafa, Radwan al-Kashif and Sa'id Hamid, who are now coming up and setting the trends of the new cinema, consider him also a mentor and continue the road he paved.]

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