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The five musketeers
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 01 - 01 - 2014

The Al-Hanager Arts Centre put on show the Egyptian Centennials exhibition that took place on 20-30 December as part of the Cairo International Film Festival, headed this year by film critic Samir Farid. It celebrates five of the pioneers of Egyptian cinema who carved their names with countless works, presiding over the golden age of Egyptian film that started in the 1930s, all born in 1913: filmmaker Kamal Selim, filmmaker Fettin Abdel-Wahab, cinematographer Abdel-Halim Nasr, cinematographer Ahmed Khorshid and actor Hussein Sedki.
To the right of the entrance is a photograph of Selim (1913-1945), followed by a poster of his film Al-Azima (Determination), perhaps the earliest depiction of middle-class failure on the Egyptian screen, featuring Hussein Sedki, Fatma Roshdi, Anwar Wagdi and Zaki Rostom. The work of the other four is celebrated in the same manner, with stills and making-of photos in between. For a better rounded effect, snippets of the soundtracks are constantly played in the background.
The simple yet detailed handmade posters dating from the 1930s are a form of art in their own right. Each conveys the character of the film it promotes in a way the prospective viewer can easily relate to. The owner of the posters Sameh Fathi is a film critic and collector; and this is his second exhibition at Al-Hanager in under two months. He has made a documentary, Donya Al-Afish (or “Film Poster World”), which he sold to Al-Jazeera Documentary, on two of the most accomplished poster designing firms: Abdel-Aziz and Gassour; and the Greek partners Vassilio and Marcel.
Kamal Selim was born in Cairo. He started his career as an actor, becoming a screenwriter for Studio Masr after it was founded by Talaat Harb in 1935. As a director he made 11 films: Waraa Al-Sitar (Behind the Curtain) in 1937, Al-Azima (Determination) in 1939, Ela Al-Abad (Forever) in 1941, Ahlam Al-Shabab (Dreams of Youth) in 1942, Al-Bo'saa (an adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables) tin 1943, Qadiyet Al-Youm (Issue of the Day) in 1943, Hanan in 1944, Shohadaa Al-Gharam (Martyrs of Love) in 1944, Al-Mazaher (Appearances) in 1945, Leilet Al-Gomaa (Friday Night) in 1945 and his last film, which he didn't have the chance to finish, Qesset Gharam (Love Story), in the same year.
The renowned filmmaker Fettin Abdel-Wahab (1913-1972) — at various times the husband of the Oriental dancer Tahia Karioka and the singer-actress Laila Mourad, each a legend in her own right and, by Mourad, the father of filmmaker-actor Zaki Fettin Abdel-Wahab — was a pioneer of the social comedy school of Egyptian cinema. His films subtly accumulated into an essential part of the collective memory from generation to generation, who have used terms and jokes from his films in their daily conversations. His legacy includes 58 films of the most frequently watched and influential: Nadia in 1949, Al-Anesa Hanafi (Miss Hanafi) in 1954 with Ismail Yassin, Ibn Hamido with Hind Rostom, Ahmed Ramzi, Ismail Yassin and Abdel-Fattah Al-Kasri in 1957, the great hit Esha'et Hobb (Rumor of Love) with a legendary icon cast including Hind Rostom, Soad Hosni, Omar Sharif, Youssef Wahbi and Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim in 1960, Al-Zouga Al-Talatashar (Wife Number 13) starring Roshdi Abaza and Shadia in 1962, Ah Min Hawwa (Beware of Eve) with Roshdi Abaza and Lubna Abdel-Aziz in 1962, A'elat Zizi (Zizi's Family) in 1962 with the renowned comedian Fouad Al-Mohandess, Ahmed Ramzi and Soad Hosni, Arous Al-Nil (The Nile Bride) starring Lubna Abdel-Aziz and Roshdi Abaza in 1963, E'terafat Zoug (Confessions of a Husband) with Fouad Al-Mohandess and Shiwikar in 1964, Merati Moudir Aam (My Wife is a General Manager) with Shadia and Salah Zulfakar in 1966, Afrit Merati (My Wife's Ghost) with Shadia and Salah Zulfakar in 1968, Nisf Saa Gawaz (Half Hour-Long Marriage) with Shadia and Roshdi Abaza in 1969 and the long comedy serial with comedian Ismail Yassin: Ismail Yassin in the Army in 1955, Ismail Yassin in the Police in 1956, Ismail Yassin in the Navy in 1957, Ismail Yassin in the Military Police in 1958, Ismail Yassin in the Air Force in 1959 and Ismail Yassin in the Secret Police in 1959.
Cinematographer Abdel-Halim Nasr (1913-1989) was born in Alexandria, where he joined Studio Alevise Orfanelli, discovering young talents like the actress Youssra, who acted in the only film he directed, Qasr fi Al-Hawaa (Palace in the Air), in 1947. Nasr shot 129 films including Ghazl Al-Banat (Candy Floss) in 1949, directed by Anwar Wagdi and starring Naguib Al-Rihani and Laila Mourad, Shate' Al-Gharam (Beach of Love) in 1950, directed by Henri Barakat and starring Laila Mourad, Al-Moharreg Al-Kabir (The Big Clown) in 1952 with filmmaker Youssef Chahine, La Anam (Sleepless) in 1957 directed by Salah Abu Seif, Sayidat Al-Qasr (The Lady of the Palace), directed by Kamal Al-Sheikh with Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif, Al-Zawga Al-Thanya (The Second Wife) in 1967, directed by Salah Abu Seif, Gharam fil Karnak (Love in Karnak) in 1967 directed by Ali Reda, Miramar in 1969 directed by Kamal Al-Sheikh, Al-Ard (The Land) in 1970 directed by Youssef Chahine, and the huge hit Khali Balak Min Zouzou (Watch Out for Zouzou) in 1972 directed by Hassan Al-Imam and starring Soad Hosni and Hussein Fahmi and Al-Mashbouh (The Suspect) in 1981 directed by Samir Seif with Adel Imam and Soad Hosni. Nasr filmed only one short film. Ma Yo'khaz Bel Qowa (What is Taken by Force) on the October War, directed by Hussein Kamal and produced by the Egyptian Television. In 1945 he founded the Artist's Union Company with filmmakers Ahmed Badrakhan and Helmi Rafla, which he took over in 1948, producing 15 films. Nasr became a professor of cinematography at the Higher Institute of Cinema on its inauguration in Giza in 1959.
Cinematographer Ahmed Khorshid (1913-1973) studied commerce in France and returned to Egypt in 1935 to start his career by joining the Egyptian Photography Company, an affiliate of Studio Masr. He was the first to use the term cinematographer when he worked with director Kamel Al-Tilmisani on the film Al-Souq Al-Sawdaa (Black Market) in 1945. He also founded the Khorshid Lab for printing films in 1951. His first film was Si Omar, directed by Niazi Mustafa in 1941, and in the course of filming 55 films he worked with the world-renowned filmmaker Youssef Chahine on, among other films, Siraa fil Wadi (Struggle in the Valley) with Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif in 1945, Siraa fil Mina (Struggle in the Pier) also with Faten Hamama, Omar Sharif and Ahmed Ramzi in 1956. His last film was Al-Shaware' Al-Khalfeya (Back streets) directed by Kamal Attia in 1972. Khorshid joined the Higher Institute of Cinema on its foundation as a professor of cinematography.
Hussein Sedki (1913-1976) was a stage and screen actor as well as a director. He performed in 25 feature films, 16 of which were written and directed by him. He acted in films like Al-Azima (Determination), Laila, Ghadet Al-Camilia (Leila, Lady of the Camellias) in 1942, directed by Togo Mizrahi, and Shate' Al-Gharam (Beach of Love) in 1950, directed by Henri Barakat featuring Laila Mourad. He also directed films like Ghadr wi Azab (Betrayal and Torture) in 1947, Al-Qattel (The Killer) in 1948, Adam wi Hawa (Adam and Eve) in 1951, Khaled Ibn Al-Walid in 1958; his last film was Ana Al-Adalla (I am Justice) in 1961.

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