Monday, October 5, 2009
A fixture on lists of the greatest Arabic films, rarely screened in the US, Al Momia (1969; released here in 1975 with the lovely title The Night of Counting the Years) is the only completed feature film by one Shadi Abdel Salam, who had previously served as an art director and costume designer in the Egyptian film industry. Set in the 1880s, the film is based on the real-life story of a Egyptian rural community who survive by raiding ancient tombs and selling the antiquities to foreign black-marketeers. Roberto Rossellini, who employed Abdel Salam as set designer for his Mankind's Fight for Survival TV series, is said to have helped the director find backing for the film; but its contained compositions, striking use of shadow and light, and stylized performance style (the actors are obliged to use classical Arabic) place Abdel Salam more in the tradition of Murnau. If you can't make it out to the Walter Reade for Al Momia's screening this Friday, October 9 at 6:15 pm, you can find English-subtitled versions of the film on Google Video (parts one and two) and at the Internet Archive.