سيرة الفنان الذاتية في السينما العربية / Autobiography in Arab Cinema


Mahmoud Kassem



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قاسم, محمود; Kassem, Mahmoud

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[Filmic autobiographies have proliferated in Arab cinema since 1979 when Youssef Chahine (Egypt) launched the genre by making the first part of his autobiographical trilogy, entitled Alexandria Why? Directors such as Lakhdar Hamina (Algeria), Nouri Bouzid (Tunisia), Muhammad Malas (Syria), Khalid al-Hajar (Egypt), Tariq al-Tilmisani (Egypt), as well as Arab directors working in Francophone cinema such as Mahdi Sharef and Rached Boucharp, have turned autobiographical films into a sub-genre of Arab cinema. Most of these autobiographical films have been co-financed by French cinematic companies. They exhibit common features which this study delineates. Traditionally, autobiography has been produced by writers to record the events of their lives. Films are more of a collective enterprise; however, the autobiographical films have concentrated on the lives of directors inasmuch as they are the auteurs of films. Directors of autobiographical films have to use techniques of fictionalization as well as documented personal facts and memories to produce their films. Some directors presented their autobiographies after they have passed fifty (Chahine and Hamina), and others handle it in their first films (al-Hajar, Tilmisani and Malas). Others have chosen to depict their life history while concentrating on the father figure (Malas) or the grandmother figure (Hamina). The protagonists of autobiographical films have been made up to look visually like their directors, and in some cases, a young relative was selected for the role. In these films, place is crucial and the directors have tried to recreate the neighborhood as they knew it in their childhood or revive the city, be it Alexandria or Qunaitra, in its bygone setting as if to preserve lost scenes in their films. These autobiographical films depict the early experiences of an individual, but they also try to capture what is collective in the life history: the first encounter with a woman and gender consciousness (Bouzid); the move to the big city and the experience of metropolitan life with the onset of political consciousness (Malas); and with the drama of alienation the contradictions and tensions of negotiating two cultures for Arab immigrants in Europe (Boucharp). An overview of these films shows the interlacement of the private with the public; thus in the histories of the directors, we often find intimately woven political dramas depicting the problems that beset the Arab world from the forties through the eighties. The most prominent issues are those of Palestine and racism.]

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