Iskanderija, kaman oue kaman

(Alexandria, Again and Forever)  (1989) 




Director:  Youssef Chahine

Starring:  Youssra (Nadia), Youssef Chahine (Yehia), Hussein Fahmy (Stelio), Hesham Selim, Taheya Cariocca (Tahia), Hoda Soltan, Ragaa Hussein, Seif El Dine, Abla Kamel, Hassan El Adl, Ahmed El Hariri, Menha Batraoui (Gigi), Tewfik Saleh, Zaki Abdel Wahab (Guindi), Mohammed Tawfik, Amr Abd El-Guelil (Amr).

personal relationships set against the general strike of 1987; Alexandria Trilogy


This movie is the third part of the autobiographical Alexandria Trilogy, the first two being Alexandria . . . Why? and An Egyptian Story

O.K. movie.  Of the three in the trilogy, this is the poorest.  This one is different in that it has the actual subject of the movie, the director Youssef Chahine, acting as himself.  It also does not have as much to do with current events.  Instead, it deals with the actors' strike in concert with the general strike of 1987 that took a stand for democracy.  Part of the actors' strike was a hunger protest by the entire Egyptian film industry.

But before the strike begins, the film deals with Yehia's obsession with Hamlet (which is really getting on the nerves of those closest to him) and his frustration with his favorite male actor Amr, who is not performing well during the making of the film based on Hamlet. 

Yehi and Amr go to the Berlin Film Festival where they receive a "Silver Bear" and a Grand Jury Award.  They are so excited about their awards that they start a musical number.  I wondered if Chahine had gone Bollywood, where even in historical dramas there are musical numbers.   Also a bit weird in the film is the use of slap stick in dealing with a movie about Cleopatra.  (I was wondering if Chahine had gone Keystone Cops on us.  All these weird things in the movie also reminded me a bit of Fellini. I don't care that much for Fellini and naturally I didn't appreciate it in this movie.)

The hunger strike begins of August 4, 1987.  The actors are thrilled that the great director/actor Yehia joins the strike.  One who is impressed is the actress Nadia.  Yehia transfers his obsession with Amr to Nadia, who he wants to star in some of his upcoming films.   

While all these relationship obsessions are going on, Yehia, as always, is busy questioning his work, his life and even his own sexual orientation. 

The film is dedicated to the struggle of Egypt's artists for democracy.

I personally did not care much for the movie, but some of you might like a combination of Bollywood, Gene Kelly Hollywood, Keystone Cops and Fellini, plus Chahine. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:


See Hadduta misrija (An Egyptian Story) (1982).


7th century  --  Muslim Arabs introduced Islam and the Arabic language to Egypt.

7th century to 13th century  --  Egypt controlled by Muslim rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate. 

1250-1517  --  the Mamluks, a local military caste, governed Egypt. 

1517  --  the Ottoman Truks conquered Egypt.

1869  --  the Suez Canal completed.

1882  --  Ahmed Urabi led a revolt of Egyptian military officers and commoners against European and Ottoman domination. A British expeditionary force crushed the revolt.  The British troops stayed in Egypt and the country began to be seen as part of the British Empire.

1922  --  the UK unilaterally declared Egyptian independence.  The British put King Faud in power. 

1936  --  death of King Faud.  His son, now King Faruq, succeeded him.

1939-1945  --  during World War II, British troops used Egypt as a base for Allied operations throughout the region.

1941  --  Rommel was transferred to Africa.  The Axis forces had suffered a string of defeats at the hands of British Major General Richard O'Connor.  He was able to push the Allied forces back out of Libya. 

1942 (October 23-Nov 4)  --  at the Second Battle of El Alamein, Allied forces under General Montgomery broke the Axis line and forced them in a retreat that pushed them all the way back to Tunisia.  Rommel left Africa after falling ill.  The next step for the Allies was the invasion of Sicily. 

1947  --  British troops were withdrawn to the Suez Canal area. 

1948  --  poor performance of the Egyptian army in a war with Israel.

1952 (July)  --  Lt Col Gamal Abdel Nasser led a coup that overthrew King Farouk, who was blamed for the 1948 disaster with Israel.

1952 (August)  --  the workers' riots in Kafr Dawar resulted in two deaths.

1953  --  the military declared Egypt a republic.

1953 --  General Muhammad Naguib became the first President of the Republic.

1954  --  Nasser forced Naguib to resign.

Nasser became a leader of both Egypt and the Arab world, promoting "Arab socialism."

1956 (mid-year)  --  Nasser nationalized the privately owned Suez Canal Company. 

1956 (October)  --  France, Britain and Israel invade Egypt. 

1967  --  the Six Day War with Israel, which occupied both the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. 

1970  --  death of Nasser.  Vice President  Anwar el-Sadat elected President of Egypt.

1972  --  Hosni Mubarak becomes Commander of the Air Force and deputy minister of war.

1973  --  Sadat launched the Yom Kippur War with Israel, which ended in a stalemate after the US gave Israel a great deal of assistance.

1973 (October)  --  Mubarak promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal.

1974 and 1975  -- the Sinai Disengagement Agreements. 

1975  --  Mubarak appointed Vice-President of Egypt.

1977 (November)  --  Sadat made a dramatic visit to Jerusalem.

1978 (September)  --  Camp David accords signed by Egypt and Israel and witnessed by the US (under President Jimmy Carter). 

1979 (March 26)  --  signing of the Egypt–Israel peace treaty, by which Egypt regained control of the Sinai Peninsula in May.

Sadat's willingness to make peace with Israel earned him the enmity of most other Arab states

1981 (October) -- President Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists. Vice President Hosni Mubarak became the new president.  Egypt thrown out of the Arab League.

1987  -- general strike. 

1987  --  Mubarak elected president.

1989  --  Egypt readmitted to the Arab League (after being thrown out after the assassination of Sadat). 

1991  --  Gulf War; Egypt was a member of the allied coalition. 

1993  --  Mubarak re-elected president.

1999  --  Mubarak re-elected president.

2003  --  President Mubarak spoke out against the 2003 war on Iraq. 

2004 (July)  --  Mubarak accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, as well as the entire cabinet. Mubarak appointed Ahmed Nazif the new Prime Minister.

2005 (February)  --   Mubarak passed a constitutional amendment allowing parties to directly run against the incumbent president.

2005  --  Mubarak re-elected president.

2005  --  conviction of politician Ayman Nour, the runner-up in Egypt's 2005 presidential elections, worries those committed to democracy.



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