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(also spelled Yussef Shahin / Yusuf Chahine)


Born: Alexandria, Egypt, 25 January 1926.

The best known and most highly regarded Egyptian filmmaker. The son of a well-to-do lawyer, he was raised as a Christian and educated at Victoria College, an exclusive high school where studies were conducted in English. After a year at Alexandria University, he went to the US, where for two years he trained as an actor at the Pasadena Playhouse. Returning to Egypt in 1948, he entered the film industry and began directing in 1950. From the start he asserted himself as a skilled technician. Although his early films only occasionally veered far from the thematic concerns of commercial cinema, they were frequently distinguished by the director's eclectic personality and bold visual style. He is credited with having discovered Omar Sharif (then Michael Shalboub), who made his debut in Chahine's Struggle in the Valley (1953). Chahine's career was by necessity affected by political events at home. During the heyday of Gamal Abdel Nasser's push for Pan-Arabism, for example, he was assigned to direct the nationalistic epic El Naser Sallah-e-din / Salladin (1963). But he continued handling strictly commercial ventures like Sand of Gold (1966), an Arabic version of the bullring drama Blood and Sand. After Egypt's stunning defeat by Israel in 1967, his films became increasingly political and social. Clues to his personality and state of mind can be found in his autobiographical film Alexandria...Why? (1978), winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1979 Berlin Festival, and its sequel, An Egyptian Story (1982).

Ephraim Katz, The Film Encylopedia

Internet Movie Database

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This page was last updated on 23 July 2000.