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In memory of Henri Barakat.. The journey of the struggle of the “Sheikh of Directors” in the art world

One of the legends of Egyptian cinema, and one of the top directors in Egypt, and one of the most directors of cinematic films, as he directed a total of 112 films over the course of his artistic career that spanned 55 years, so he was called the “Sheikh of Directors”. It enriched the film library with a large number of films that have become one of the most important classics of Egyptian cinema, and some of them were selected among the list of the 100 best films in the history of Egyptian cinema.

He was able to be a distinctive mark in the world of cinema in terms of quantity and quality, as his large production did not affect the artistic quality of the films. He is considered a professor of romantic film directing, and he was also interested in highlighting realism in Egyptian cinema, as his films shed light on the different social classes. Therefore, his works left a great imprint in the hearts of the masses, and remained in their memory even years after his retirement and death. It is the great director Henri Barakat, who falls on February 23, the anniversary of his death. In the following lines, we will review with you the journey of his struggle in the world of art and directing.

His birth and upbringing

Henry Anton Barakat was born on June 11, 1914 in the Shubra district of Cairo, to an Egyptian mother and a father whose origins go back to the Levant. From a young age, he loved going to cinemas and theaters, as well as reading classic novels. He graduated from Al-Farr High School and then obtained a Bachelor of Laws from King Farouk I University, which later became Cairo University. Then he traveled to France to study film directing. He entered the studios and got acquainted with the most important workers in the field of cinema. He also watched a large number of films, to study the methods of directing them. He was keen to read critics’ opinions in magazines specializing in cinema. He returned to Egypt in 1935 to begin his long artistic journey.

Early Works

Henry Barakat started his artistic life as an assistant editor and assistant director, and was discovered by producer Asia Dagher in 1942 when she was looking for a director to direct the movie “Al-Shared” for her after director Ahmed Galal left her and formed his own production company. To begin a long artistic career in which Henry Barakat presented various types of films that varied between comedians, tragic, romantic, social and lyrical. Since the beginning of his artistic career, Henri Barakat has been interested in the art of montage, which he trained in France, which reflected positively on his work as a director.

His film career

Director Henri Barakat’s artistic career spanned for more than half a century, during which he presented 112 films, many of which are considered classics of Egyptian cinema, such as: “Hassan and Naima, in our house there is a man, the prince of shrewdness, days and nights, from the heart to the heart, an hour to your heart, the wedding night, a father’s mistake, the heart has one, a woman without chains, Shaban is below zero.”

Henry Barakat formed a successful duet with the artist Faten Hamama, who was represented in 18 films directed by him, which is considered one of the most important and successful films in Egyptian cinema, and we mention them: The prayer of the crown, the open door, the night of the arrest of Fatima, mouths and rabbits, the melody of eternity, a date of love, and no consolation for women, have mercy on my tears, the forbidden, the fine thread. He also presented 10 films with Farid al-Atrash, the most important of which are: “Hanim imp, great love, lifetime lover, love letter, shore of love”.

List of the 100 best films in the history of Egyptian cinema

The list of the 100 best films in the history of Egyptian cinema included 4 films directed by Henry Barakat, and those films are:

  • The movie “Al Haram”, produced in 1965. The film is co-starring Faten Hamama, Zaki Rostom and Abdullah Ghaith. It is the story of Youssef Idris, and the script and dialogue by Saad Eddin Wahba. It ranks number 5 on the list.
  • The movie “Doaa Al-Karawan”, produced in 1958. The film was co-starring Faten Hamama, Ahmed Mazhar, Amina Rizk and Zahra Al-Ala. It is the story of Taha Hussein, and the script and dialogue by Henry Barakat and Youssef Gohar. It is ranked No. 14.
  • The movie “In Our Home is a Man”, produced in 1961. The film is co-starring Omar Sharif, Rushdi Abaza, Zubaida Tharwat and Zahra Al-Ala. It is written by Ihsan Abdel Quddus and Youssef Issa. It is ranked No. 23.
  • The movie “Prince of Revenge” produced in 1950. It is co-starring Anwar Wagdy, Samia Gamal, Madiha Yousry, Hussein Riad, Mahmoud El Meligy and Farid Shawky. It is the story of Taha Hussein, and the script and dialogue by Henry Barakat and. It is ranked No. 61.

Film production

After the death of his father, Henry Barakat invested his share of the inheritance in film production, establishing the “Barakat Brothers Films” company in partnership with his brother Abdullah, who took over the management of film production until his death in 1978. The company produced many films, including: “Antar Effendi, prince of cunning, great love, open door, woman is woman, dearest beloved, hold my thief, my life is you.”  The company also produced some films in partnership with the “Mohamed Abdel Wahab Films” company, including: “A date with the unknown, temptation, girls today, Hassan and Naima.”

Awards and Honors

During his long artistic career, Henri Barakat was honored on many occasions, and he won many valuable artistic awards, including:

  • Best Film Award from the Jakarta Film Festival in 1964 for “The Open Door”.
  • Special Male Award from the 1984 Valencia International Film Festival for the film “The Night of Fatima’s Arrest”.
  • The State Appreciation Award in Arts from the Supreme Council of Culture in 1995.
  • Medal from the Alexandria Film Festival in 1991. and the Cairo International Film Festival in 1994.

Henri Barakat also received a number of important nominations during his career, as he was nominated for the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Festival in 1959 with two films “Hassan and Naima” and “Doaa Al-Karwan”. He was nominated for the Palme d’Or award from the Cannes Film Festival in 1965 for the film “Al Haram”.

In addition to being honored in many festivals, such as the Paris Festival in 1984, the Valencia Festival in 1985, the Alexandria Festival in 1991, Los Angeles TV America in 1989, the Montpellier Festival in 1992, and the Cairo Festival in 1994.

Retiring art

In the last years before his retirement from art, Henri Barakat presented a group of films that descended to the level of low-quality commercial cinema, which were classified as lower quality than his previous works. He directed the films “Al-Askari Shabrawi” and “Hassan Bek, the Poor Man” in 1982, and “Nawara and the Beast” in 1987. Henri Barakat defended these films as the prevailing trend of cinema at this time, and although he had made some concessions in his films, they did not descend into humility, stressing that he was not ashamed of them. In 1993, Henri Barakat announced his retirement from film directorship, and his last work was the movie “An Investigation with Mwatana”.

His marriage and children

Henry Barakat married a woman from outside the artistic community called Rosette Dahan, an Egyptian of Levantine origin, born in Alexandria. The duo lived a quiet life and a long love story that lasted 50 years, during which they had two daughters, “Randa” and “Jihan”.

His Death

The great director Henri Barakat passed away on February 23, 1997, at the age of 83. Leaving behind a long legacy of valuable and unforgettable artwork.

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