بهجة أن تحكي أفراداً / The Joy of Narrating Individuals



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نصرالله, يسري; Nasralla, Yusri; علوان, حسام; Elwan, Hossam

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Publication Date





[In this interview the Egyptian director Yusri Nasralla discusses his work and his evolution as a filmmaker as well as his perspective on life and art. His formal education in Cairo's German School and studies at Cairo University and at the Institute of Cinema have marked him as much as his involvement in the student movement and his sojourn in West Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. His informal and professional association with filmmakers (Shadi Abdel Salam, Youssef Chahine, Omar Amiralai and Muhammad Malas) as well his critical reporting on world cinema in dailies and ciné-clubs have contributed to his formation. The following are excerpts from the interview which is published in toto in the Arabic section of this issue: * The question is what do you opt for: to be a captive of your family's status and use it as a crutch or alternately go beyond it to discover yourself.... It is obvious that I was shaped by my background just as I was shaped by the students' movement.... But some would rather reduce my work to my family's background, saying he is a descendent of the Ghalis and the Nasrallas; and instead of discussing the issues I raise in my films, they point to my aristocratic upbringing. This is the mentality of bureaucrats-not intellectuals-dead set on putting people in pigeon-holes. * I am always criticized for my "confused thoughts".... This is a problem of reception.... If you were to view my films as narratives about interesting characters who reveal themselves in given situations, then you will not find my films difficult or confusing. You will experience the joy of narrating individuals. However, if you insist on applying rigid ideological criteria, then you will find my films inconsistent. But I am not trying to push forward an ideological message-all I am trying to do is to present the stories of interesting people and their struggle, so that the spectator may enjoy them and learn from them. I deal with my material freely, for if I were to restrict myself to a narrowly defined framework from the start, then the result would invariably be false.... This joy motivates me: I like to narrate individuals and their stories because I like their contradictions; and the more complex they are, the more curious I become and the more I desire to tell their stories. If you want to make films to prove your ideas, the result will be boring. Ideas are not what make a work artistic. Your mind helps you understand people, but the moment you use people to demonstrate your ideas, you are finished. * I am a socialist living in a world where socialism is collapsing. I am told that I have no value, that there is no such thing as "good" and "evil" or "beautiful" and "ugly," and that everything can be transformed into whatever is needed.... This makes me ill at ease. At the same time, I do not have a coherent worldview of my own that would allow me to construct a viable system of values for men and women of today.... This is what makes me unable to dismiss the young terrorists as simply religious fanatics dreaming of seizing power.... I view them as people searching for something, and from this angle, they begin to express my own problem. But what I find distasteful in them is their fantastic certainty that does not touch base with history. * In my films Summer Thefts and Mercedes, playing with the narrative allowed me to look for what is unusual in the familiar, and this is what deserves to be told in my opinion.... Mercedes gave me the chance to play with complex narrative: with the Arabian Nights and with traditional Egyptian and Indian melodrama. This prepared me for my documentary film Guys and Girls.... I want to capture what is unusual in a human being, and when this venture proliferates, I find myself compelled to use open brackets, so to speak: in narrating the story of a character, another narrative is triggered to tell the story of another character, and so on in a chain of stories within stories akin to the technique of the Arabian Nights.]

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