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Namibian Film Screening "Destiny", 14 August 2013, 6.30 pm at the FNCC

On Wednesday, 14 August, at 6.30 pm, AfricAvenir and the FNCC present the film screening of the historical epic Destiny by Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine. Destiny, Arabic (Al-Massir, 135 min), is both an entertaining historical biopic of the influential 12th century philosopher Averroes and a blunt allegory condemning the politically driven fanaticism of present times. The Egyptian-French Co-Production premiered at the 50th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, where the director Youssef Chahine received a Lifetime Achievement Award. The film will be shown at the FNCC, Robert Mugabe Ave, Entrance is 20,- Nam$.

This screening is supported by M-Net, in cooperation with WhatsOnWindhoek and AfriCine.

Synopsis:
"Destiny," which won the Cannes film festival's 50th anniversary award, is set in 12th-century Andalusia, with the Arab philosopher Averroes, a harbinger of the Enlightenment, as hero, surrounded by sheikhs and caliphs, and disciples with significant names — the exiled Joseph, faithful Nasser, and rebellious Abdallah.

Averroes was a follower of Aristotelian thought, an innovative lawyer and an important scientist who lived during the rule of the great liberal Caliph Al Mansour. At the time, the Caliph's rivals were part of Magdi Idris, a fundamentalist sect, who sought to destroy his power by cloaking their own political agendas in religious dogma and spreading it liberally amongst the easily influenced peasantry. Averroes' ordeal began when fundamentalists found his many books espousing a humanistic doctrine contrary to their own. Demanding an end to the spread of the philosophers radical, rationalist ideas, they insisted that the Caliph launch a fatwa against Averroes.

The film opens in Southern France, with a man being burned at the stake by the Christian Inquisition for the crime of having translated forbidden works by "the Infidel Averroës." His son watches him burn, then steals away across the border into Spain and makes his way to Cordoba to the home of the great scholar himself. It is a dramatically different world than the one he has left – a world of culture, luxury, learning, and grace. Averroës' household percolates with life, love, and good humor. An amazing variety of people frequent the household: the brother of the Caliph, the Caliph's sons, the gypsy dancer Manuela and her sister Sarah, the singer Marwen, poor students, wealthy students, a former religious fanatic whom the philosopher has taken in, Averroës' independent-minded daughter, and, of course, his devoted, spirited wife Zeinab. Still, in the larger world of Andalousia outside this eclectic household, the seeds of the same malady that has the Christian north in its grips – ignorance, intolerance, and intrigue – are to be found, and increasingly so.

The region is ruled by the Caliph al-Mansour, proud and self-centered, disappointed in his two sons. He looks to Averroës for guidance, as did his father, but refuses to follow the philosopher's advice. The Caliph's elder son cares little for matters of state. He prefers the company of horses, and, increasingly, of Averroës and his daughter. The younger son is weak, sensual, and easily distracted; he will become the brainwashed tool of a religious sect whose goal is to unseat the Caliph and the political, intellectual establishment, and establish the rule of fundamentalism and religious purity. Averroës becomes the object of their most intense animosity, and the Caliph will be unable to shield him from their schemes.  To silence Averroës and bring an end to his ideas, all of his books are publicly burned and Averroes himself is exiled. But before the burning occurres, Averroes' faithful students copy each of his detailed Commentaries on Aristotle and smuggle them to Egypt where in time they were passed down to become the cornerstones of modern Western philosophy.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YojbU0gOCuQ

Press:
“... a rollicking intellectual adventure with the emotional tenor of a melodrama.”
Sean Axmaker, Seattle Weekly

“The most courageous frontal attack on Islamic fundamentalism to come out of the Arab cinema to date, "Destiny" is both an entertaining historical biopic of the influential 12th century philosopher Averroes and a blunt allegory condemning the politically driven fanaticism of present times.”
Deborah Young, Variety

“A Look at Zealotry in `Destiny' - Adventure drama oddly charming”
Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle

“It is an odd, brave film, part impassioned melodrama, part musical, taking a broad popular approach to questions of religious belief.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Further reading:
"Destiny" - A film to be remembered today. Chahine and Averroes as relevant as ever, by Hans-Christian Mahnke, 30.12.2012, link: http://www.africine.org/?menu=art&no=11221

The director Youssef Chahine about the film:
“In a single day, I expect to cry, laugh, dance, sing. I may even be locked up in jail. A film should contain all those things.
If there is a message in Destiny, it is the following: one must leap into the battle. Averroës embodies what I have always advocated: opening oneself to the Other.”

"Maybe part of the picture's success," Chahine said, "is that I'm laying out a thorny question — the issue of fundamentalism — on the table, and having studied in America, I wanted to do it in an entertaining way. Don't bore people, give them adventure, but make them think. So I found Averroes, the philosopher who believed in the coexistence of reason and revelation."
"When I decided to do a movie on the golden age of Islam, it was because 12th-century Cordoba looked like my Alexandria, where everybody talked to everybody, and everybody made love to everybody, no matter the religion or creed. But in Cairo they gave me a bit of trouble, they wanted a commission to check historical accuracy. I said, I see things visually; if you don't like my point of view, make another film. My movie is not chronological, it's not a thesis."
Chahine was also motivated by the experience of a young actor friend, who had fallen into the hands of a fundamentalist sect, was brainwashed, and in just a few weeks had totally transformed into an automaton. The results of this dehumanizing process, seen on a personal level, terrified and enraged him. He saw these fundamentalists as representing the forces of death. For Chahine, Averroës represented the opposite. Averroës, Chahine told a reporter for Le Monde, "is a thinker who always takes the side of life."

"But fanatics are not just in Arab countries," he said. "We should stop talking about Islamic terrorism; what about Catholic terrorism or Judaic terrorism? What about those conservative white men in Washington or Le Pen here? People are becoming more ethnic, more religious, more fundamentalist and more terrorist, and sects are everywhere."

About the director:
Youssef Chahine was born in 1926 in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria to a well-to-do Catholic family. Although born a Christian, Chahine was not a believer in organised religion and it was stated that, if asked of his religion, he would reply: Egyptian.
Chahine discovered a number of the Egyptian cinema's top stars, including Omar Sharif (whose first film was Chahine's 1954 Sera Fi El-Wadi/Sky of Hell), and frequently collaborated with the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz.

Fascinated by the performing arts from an early age, young Chahine began to create shows at home for his family. Chahine began his education at a Frères' school Collège Saint Marc.Growing up, he attended Alexandria's elite Victoria College. After studies at Alexandria University, he spent two years studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in Los Angeles, then returned to Egypt to enter the film industry, when the cinematographer,  the “Pioneer of Egyptian Cinema”, Alvise Orfanelli, introduced him to the Egyptian film production. He has been making films since he was 23 years old, beginning in 1949/50, when he made the comedy Baba Amine/Papa Amine, two years before the revolution of 1952 that saw the overthrow of the monarchy and the rise of the charismatic leader Gamal Abdel Nasser.

One year later, with Nile Boy (1951) he was first invited to the Cannes Film Festival. Sira’ fi-l-Wadi (The Blazing Sun, 1954) introduced Omar Sharif to the cinematic screen.

Chahine’s filmmaking during the political era of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956-70) was linked to Nasser’s political concept of a national project, Pan-Arabism and the struggle against Imperialism, oppression, and social injustice.
Three films made in this era by Chahine are until today considered national milestones and as important contribution to the national culture and identity. These are “Cairo Station” (1958), which was forbidden in Egypt for a period of 20 years, “Saladin, The Victorious” (1963), in the Original called “El Nasser. Salah Ed-Din”, and “The Land”, which mirrors the soul of the Egyptian peasant life. This film until today remains one of the most impressive work of world cinema, having the topic of social injustice as it core theme.

Chahine world fame begins in the Post_Nasser-Period. In 1970 he was awarded a Golden Tanit at the Carthage Film Festival for al-Ikhtiyar (The Choice). With The Sparrow (1973), in which he showed his political opinions after the Six Day War with Israel, he directed the first Egypt-Algeria co-production.

He won the Silver Bear and the Special Jury Prize at the 29th Berlin International Film Festival for Alexandria... Why? (1978), the first instalment in what would prove to be an autobiographic quartet, completed with An Egyptian Story (1982), Alexandria, Again and Again (1990), and Alexandria...New York (2004). The producer Humbert Balsan went to Cannes in 2004 with Alexandria... New York, his ninth film with the Egyptian director since 1985's Adieu, Bonaparte. In one of his films The Sixth Day اليوم السادس, an adaptation of a novel written in French by Lebanese writer André Chedid, the famous Egyptian singer Dalida was the protagonist in the role of a poor Egyptian woman.
 
About his work, Chahine has said, "I make my films first for myself. Then for my family. Then for Alexandria. Then for Egypt," Chahine once famously said. "If the Arab world likes them, ahlan wa sahlan (welcome). If the foreign audience likes them, they are doubly welcome."

In 1994 Chahine directs his film "The Emigrant", the plot which was inspired by the biblical character of Joseph, Son of Jakob. The film had been in his head since the 1950s. In 1997, his film “Destiny” premieres at the 50th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, where Chahine receives the Lifetime Achievement Award, the „Cinquentenaire Prize“. In 1999, his film "The Other" opens the category „Un Certain Regard“ in Cannes. In 2001 he directs the musical "Silence... We're Rolling". 2004 follows "Alexandria... New York", which is an addition to the autobiographical triology.

While shooting his last film, "Chaos" (2007) Chahine was assisted by the director Khaled Youssef. Chahine didn’t live to see the final version of the film. At the age of 82, he died on 27 July 2008.

Filmography of Youssef Chahine
•1950: Baba Amin (‏بابا أمين‎,  Bābā Amīn)
•1951: Son of the Nil (‏ابن النيل‎, Ibn al-Nīl)
•1952: The Great Clown (‏المهرج الكبير, El Mohareg el Kebyr)
•1953: Lady on the Train (سيدة القطار‏, Saydat al Ketaar)
•1953: Women without men (‏نساء بلا رجال, Nisaa bila Regal)
•1954: Struggle in the Valley (‏صراع في الوادي‎,  Ṣirāʿ fī l-wādī), aka The Blazing Sun
•1954: The Desert Devil (شيطان الصحراء, ‏Shaitan al Sahraa)
•1956: Struggle on the Pier (‏صراع في المناء‎,  Ṣirāʿ fī l-mināʾ), aka Dark Waters
•1957: Farewell to your love (ودعت حبك, ‏Wadda'tu Hobbaka)
•1957: You’re my love (‏إنت حبيبى, Enta Habiby)
•1958: Cairo Station (‏باب الحديد‎,  Bāb al-ḥadīd)
•1958: Djamila the Algerian (‏جميلة‎,  Ǧamīla)
•1959: Forever Yours (حب إلى الأبد‎,  Hobb lel Abad)
•1960: In Your Hands (بين ايديك, Bein Edeik)
•1960: A Lover’s Call (نداء العشاق, Nidaa al Oushaak)
•1961: A Man in My Life (رجل في حياتي, Rajul fe Haiaty)
•1963: Saladin the Victorius (‏الناصر صلاح الدين‎, al-Nāṣir Ṣalāh al-Dīn)
•1964: Dawn of a new day (‏فجر يوم جديد, Fagr Youm Gedeed)
•1965: The ring salesman (‏بياع الخواطم‎, Bayyāʿ al-ḫawāṭim)
•1966: Golden Sands (رمال من ذهب, Rimal min Thahab)
•1967: The Feast of Mairun  (عيد الميرون, Eid al Mairun)
•1968: Those People of the Nile (‏النص والنيل‎, al-Naṣṣ wa-l-Nīl)
•1969: The Land (‏|, الأرض, Al-Ard/TheLand)
•1970:  The Choice (‏الإختيار, Al-Ekhtyiar )
•1972: Salwa the Little Girl who Talks to Cows (‏سلوى الفتاة الصغيرة التى تكلم الأبقار, Salwa al Fatah al Saghira allaty Tokalem el Abkar), aka Salwa
•1973:  The Sparrow (‏االعصفور, El Asfur)
•1973:  Forward We Go (انطلاق, Intilak‏)
•1976:  Return of The Prodigal Son (عودة الابن الضال, Awdet el Ebn el Dal
•1978: Alexandria… why? (‏اسكندرية... ليه؟‎, Iskandariyya... lē?)
•1982: An Egyptian Tale (‏حدوثة مصرية‎, Ḥaddūṯa miṣriyya)
•1985: Adieu Bonaparte (وداعًا بونابرت, Wadaan Bonabart)
•1986: The Sixth Day (Le sixième jour, اليوم السادس, Al-Yawm al-Sadis)
•1990: Alexandria Again and Again (‏اسكندرية، كمان وكمان‎, Iskandariyya, kamān wa kamān)
•1991:  Cairo as Told by Chahine (القاهرة منورة بأهلها, El Kahera Menawara be Ahlaha)
•1994: The Emigrant (‏المهاجر‎, al-Muhāǧir)
•1997: Destiny (‏المصير‎,  al-Maṣīr)
•1998: It's Only a Step (‏كلها خطوة, Kolaha Khatwa)
•1999: The Other – L'Autre (الآخر, Al-Akhar)
•2001: Silence, We're Rolling (‏سكوت ح نصور‎, Sukūt ḥa nṣawwar)
•2002: 11'09"01 – September 11th (Episode, سبتمبر) aka 11'09"01 Eleven Minutes, Nine Seconds, One Image
•2004: Alexandrie… New York (إسكندرية-نيويورك, Iskandariyah-New York)
•2007: Chaos (‏هي فوضى‎, Hiya fawḍā)

Specifics on Destiny
French-Egyptian  Production, 135 minutes, 1997, Arabic Dialogue, Dolby Sound
A Pyramide release (France) of an Ognon Pictures (Paris)/Misr Intl. Films (Egypt) co-production in association with France 2 Cinema. (International sales: FPI)
Produced by Humbert Balsan, Gabriel Khoury.
Directed by Youssef Chahine. Screenplay, Chahine with Khaled Youssef.
Crew
Camera (color), Mohsen Nasr; editor, Rachida Abdel Salam; music, Kamal El Tawil, Yohia El Mougy; art direction, Hamed Hemdane; costumes, Nahed Nasrallah; Sound, Annette Dutertre; choreography, Walid Aouni.
Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 14, 1997.
With
Averroes - Nour El Cherif
Gypsy - Laila Eloui
Abdallah - Hani Salama
Nasser - Khaled El Nabaoui
Marwan - Mohamed Mounir
Zeinab - Safia El Emary
Caliph - Mahmoud Hemeida
Sect Leader - Magdi Idris

The film series African Perspectives is supported by the FNB Foundation, the Finnish Embassy in Namibia, WhatsOnWindhoek, AfriCine, the FNCC and the Goethe-Centre Windhoek.

© Copyright AfricAvenir 2013

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