January 25 marks the birthday of director Youssef Chahine, who has been known since his inception for his controversial works, bold personality, and contrary views. Which made him a special case in the art world. He presented a group of artistic masterpieces that met with great success and praised filmmakers. As a result, he reached the world and became one of the most important film directors in Egypt and the world. He won many awards. He was also credited with discovering and introducing several new faces that became the most important art stars, so he was called the “Professor.” On his birthday, we invite you to learn about the most prominent events in the life of director Youssef Chahine.
His Birth & Early Life
His full name is Youssef Gabriel Shaheen, and he was born on January 25, 1926, in Alexandria. The Lebanese father works as a lawyer, and the mother is a housewife of Greek origin. He attended Saint-Marc French School, then obtained his high school diploma from Victoria English College, and graduated from Alexandria University. Then, in 1946, he traveled to the United States to study performing arts at the Pasadena Theater Institute.
His film career
After completing his studies, Youssef Chahine returned to Egypt to assist cinematographer Alvizi Orfanelli in his work in the film industry. He directed his first movie in 1950, when he was 23 years old, the movie “Baba Amin” starring Faten Hamama, Hussein Riad, Farid Shawqi, and Hind Rostom. He directed the movie “Ibn El-Nil” the following year starring Shukri Sarhan and Faten Hamama. The film caused it to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival for the first time.
During his artistic career, Youssef Chahine directed 40 films, including: “The Lady of the Train, Struggle in the Valley, Struggle in the Harbor, You Are My Love, Gate of Iron, Jamila, Nasser Salah Al-Din, The Land, The Return of the Prodigal Son, The Emigrant, Fate, The Other, Scott H Nassour, is chaos.”
As for the movie “Alexandria… Why?” it was produced in 1978. It was the first autobiographical film that Shaheen continued to present in his later films, which bore the titles “Hadwat Masriya” in 1982, “Alexandria Violin and Violin” in 1990, and “Alexandria New York” in 2004.
Youssef Chahine also directed six short films: It’s all a step, Cairo is enlightened by its people, Al-Intilaq, Salwa, Eid Al-Mirun, 9/11/2001. In 1992, author and theater director Jacques LaSalle asked him to choose a French comedy to perform at the French National Theatre. So Chahine chose the play “Caligula” by Albert Camus, and it achieved great success
Youssef Chahine and acting
In 1957, Youssef Chahine acted for the first time in one of his films, “The Iron Gate.” Still, he was surprised by referring him to trial on charges of acting without being restricted to the schedules of the Syndicate of Actors, as the law stipulated that no person should be represented in any work without being restricted to the schedules of the syndicate. The only exception to this is when a person plays a role that other union members cannot play. The penalty for that charge at the time was 30 days in prison and a fine of 50 pounds. However, Youssef Chahine defended his work, saying that he does not find a suitable actor for the role like him and that he does not have to hire a person who is not suitable just because he is a member of the syndicate—performed by anyone other than Youssef Chahine.
Indeed, Shaheen sent the film’s script to the syndicate with a request to be registered in its schedules, but he did not wait for the syndicate’s decision and completed the work of the film. Before the arbitrator, Youssef Chahine said that the syndicate members do not work because they are not suitable. Otherwise, the directors will seek help from them. The syndicate has no right to interfere in the directors’ work and choices. It does not have the right to undertake the script because this is incompatible with the confidentiality of the work. He stressed that this method could not make the directors discover the new talented faces because the syndicate does not bind them. At the same time, the Actors Syndicate confirmed that it wants to defend its members and give unemployed artists an opportunity instead of seeking help from those who are not registered in the union’s schedules. After that, the situation passed peacefully, and Youssef Chahine completed the film.
In addition to the character “Qenawi” that he played in the movie “Bab Al Hadid,” Youssef Chahine acted in several other films. First, he appeared in short scenes in the “Ismail Yassin in Flying” movie directed by Fatin Abdel Wahab. He also acted in “The Dawn of a New Day, The Sixth Day, Alexandria Violin, and Violin.” After that, he appeared in a lightning shot in the movie “Ibn El Nile,” and his last appearance was “Ouja,” courtesy of his student Khaled Youssef.
With his bold opinions and various films, Youssef Chahine has constantly caused controversy. Which exposed him to many crises, and Shaheen was the owner of one of the largest religious crises in Egyptian cinema because of the movie “The Migrant,” which was called “Youssef and his Brothers.” Al-Azhar objected to its depiction because it presented the story of Prophet Yusuf. Peace be upon him. So Shaheen had to change the script and make major modifications to it so that he could shoot it so that the film became inspired by the story of our master Yusef. But unfortunately, even after being shown in the cinema, the film was permanently banned from television.
Chahine also entered into another conflict with censorship because of the movie “Al Asfour,” which talks about the stage of defeat after the 1967 war. Again, the censors saw a direct attack on the July Revolution and its symbols and prevented it from showing. Indeed, the film was stopped for nearly three years, and it was not shown until after the political situation in Egypt changed after the October 73 war.
List of the 100 best films in the history of Egyptian cinema
Youssef Chahine is the director with the largest share in the list of the 100 best films in the history of Egyptian cinema. 12 of his films were selected in the list, which are:
- The movie “The Land” starring Mahmoud El Meligy, Yahya Shaheen, Ezzat Al-Alayli, and Najwa Ibrahim, the story of Abdel Rahman Al-Sharqawi, and the script and dialogue by Hassan Fouad. It occupies number 2 on the list.
- The movie “Bab Al-Hadid” starring Youssef Chahine, Farid Shawqi, Hind Rostom, and Hassan Al-Baroudi, is the story and script by Abdel Hai Adeeb, and the dialogue of Muhammad Abu Youssef. It occupies number 4 on the list.
- The movie “Al-Nasser Salah Al-Din” starring Ahmed Mazhar, Salah Zulfiqar, Nadia Lutfi, Laila Fawzy, Hamdi Ghaith, and Mahmoud Al-Meligy, the story of Youssef Al-Sibai, the script, and dialogue by Abdel Rahman Al-Sharqawi. It occupies number 11 on the list.
- The movie “Struggle in the Valley” starring Faten Hamama, Omar Sharif, Zaki Rostom, and Farid Shawqi, the story of Helmy Halim, the script and dialogue by Ali Al-Zarqawi. It occupies number 25 on the list.
- The movie “Alexandria why” starring Mohsen Mohieldin, Abdullah Mahmoud, Ahmed Zaki, Farid Shawqi, Mahmoud El Meligy, and Naglaa Fathi, and the story of Mohsen Zayed, script and dialogue by Youssef Chahine. It occupies number 32 on the list.
- The movie “The Sparrow” starring Mahmoud El Meligy, Mohsina Tawfiq, Salah Kabil, and Saif Abdel Rahman, and the story of Lotfi El Khouli, script and dialogue by Youssef Chahine. It occupies number 45 on the list.
- The movie “The Return of the Prodigal Son” starring Magda El Roumi, Suhair Al Morshedy, Shukri Sarhan, Hoda Sultan, Mahmoud El Meligy, and the story of Salah Jaheen, script and dialogue by Youssef Chahine. It occupies number 51 on the list.
- The movie “Al-Muhajir” starring Khaled Al-Nabawi, Mahmoud Hamida, Yousra, Hanan Turk and Safia Al-Omari, the story of Rafiq Al-Sabban, the script and dialogue by Youssef Chahine and Khaled Youssef. It occupies number 52 on the list.
- The movie “The Choice” starring Ezzat Al-Alayli, Souad Hosni, Youssef Wehbe, Hoda Sultan, and Mahmoud Al-Meligy, the story of Naguib Mahfouz, the script and dialogue by Youssef Chahine. It occupies number 53 on the list.
- The movie “Gamila” starring Magda, Salah Zulfikar, Ahmed Mazhar, Rushdi Abaza, and Zahra Al-Ala, the story of Youssef Al-Sebaei, the script, and dialogue by Naguib Mahfouz, Abdul Rahman Al-Sharqawi, and Ali Al-Zarqani. It occupies number 54 on the list.
- The movie “Ibn El-Nil” starring Faten Hamama, Shukri Sarhan, Mahmoud El-Meligy, and Yahya Shaheen, the story and script by Youssef Chahine, and the dialogue of Nowrouz Abdel-Malik. It occupies number 82 on the list.
- The movie “Egyptian Story,” starring Nour El Sherif, Yousra, Mohamed Mounir, Suheir El Babilly, and Mahmoud El Meligy, and a story, script, and dialogue by Youssef Chahine. It occupies number 84 on the list.
New talents detection
Youssef Chahine presented many talented young faces in his films. Some of them continued and became stars in the skies of Egyptian cinema, and others gradually withdrew to secondary roles, and some of them decided to retire from acting. Among these stars, we mention:
- Seif Abdel Rahman: In 1964, Shaheen chose him to play the character “Tariq” in the movie “Fajr A New Day,” and then the character “Raouf” in the movie “Al Asfour.” Although he is the most recurring new face in Youssef Chahine’s films, where he participated in more than ten works, most notably “The Nile and Life, Choice, Alexandria Les, Al-Masir, Farewell Bonaparte,” Seif gradually withdrew from the starring roles and was satisfied with secondary roles.
- Mohsen Mohieldin: Youssef Chahine hired the young artist, Mohsen Mohieldin, who was 17 years old, to present the character “Yahya” in the movie “Alexandria Les” in 1979. And the movie “Egyptian Tales” in 1982. It is the character that represents Youssef Chahine himself during his youth. He chose him again in 1958 as “Ali” in the movie “Farewell Bonaparte.” After Mohsen Mohieldin presented a series of films, he suddenly decided to retire from acting in 1990. To return to the artistic field in 2013, after a 23-year retirement.
- Amr Abdel Galil: Chahine presented him for the first time in the movie “Alexandria Kaman Walkman” in 1990 to present a precise stage of Youssef Chahine’s biography. Then he collaborated with Shaheen in some of his important films after that, such as “Al-Muhajir” and “Heya Fawda.”
- Hanan Turk: Although she participated in some works before meeting Shaheen, Hanan Turk’s real artistic breakthrough came through the movie “The Migrant” in 1994, then the movie “The Other” in 1999, after which Hanan Turk began her long artistic career. Before she retired from acting completely in 2012.
- Hani Salameh: After meeting Shaheen Bhani Salama by chance, he decided to include him in the list of his heroes. He presented it in 1997, through the character “Abdullah,” who falls prey to extremist religious groups, within the movie “The Destiny.” Then the character “Adam,” the romantic young man who defends his girlfriend until they are both killed in the movie “The Other.” For Hani Salama to reveal an outstanding talent and launch into the world of cinema with films that have achieved great success.
- Yusra Louzy: Youssra El-Lozy entered the art world for the first time when Youssef Chahine chose her to participate in the movie “Alexandria New York” in 2004. She performed the young girl “Ginger,” a ballerina whom Yahya loved while studying in the United States of America. This role was her first step in the world of cinema.
Awards and Honors
- The Golden Tanit Award from the Carthage Film Festival for “The Choice” in 1970.
- Silver Bear Award from the Berlin Film Festival for the film “Alexandria… Why?” 1979
- Best Photography Award from the Cairo Film Festival for the movie “Alexandria Violin and Violin” in 1989
The State Appreciation Award in 1994.
- Prize of the Amiens International Film Festival for the movie “The Destiny” in 1997
- The Golden Jubilee Award of the Cannes Festival for all his works in 1997.
- Francois Calais Award from the Cannes Film Festival for the film “The Other” in 1999
- The UNESCO Prize from the Venice Film Festival for the film “9/11/2001” in 2003.
In his press and television interviews, Youssef Chahine stated that he wanted to marry the artist Faten Hamama, whom he fell in love with after presenting her first and second films, “Baba Amin” and “Ibn El-Nil.” But he could not tell her the truth of his feelings for her and his desire to marry her for fear of her rejection. Moreover, he was jealous of her love story with Omar Sharif, especially since he was the one who caused their association and marriage when he nominated his friend and classmate Omar Sharif for the lead role opposite Faten Hamama in the movie. “Struggle in the Valley,” Shaheen admitted that he became a very miserable person, and this led him to attempt suicide. After he went on strike, Youssef Chahine married in 1954 a foreign woman of French origin known as Colette Chahine. He had met her in Paris, and she came to Egypt after that, and the couple married without any introduction or courtship period. The marriage ceremony was held in the “Fleming” church in Alexandria. Shaheen was married to her until he died in 2008, and they had no children.
Although his marriage to Mrs. Colette Chahine is the only announced marriage to Youssef Chahine, the novelist Iman Yahya confirmed in one of his articles that Youssef Chahine had an unknown marriage story he was 29 years old. He married a Russian cellist and ballerina, Ekaterina Umova. Who died suddenly on September 17, 1955. She fell and hit her head against a sharp piece of furniture while doing some ballet rehearsals. Eman Yahya indicated that Ekaterina is the reason for Youssef Chahine’s love of dance and music.
Illness and death
Youssef Chahine suffered a brain hemorrhage on June 15, 2008, after which he fell into a coma and was admitted to Al Shorouk Hospital in Cairo. His student, director Khaled Youssef, rented a private German ambulance to transport Shaheen on board to the American Hospital in the French capital, Paris, for treatment. But Youssef Chahine remained in a coma for six weeks, and due to the difficulty of his condition and his severe illness, he had to return to Egypt. To leave our world on July 27, at the age of 82.