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Creativity has indeed lost one of its greatest champions. Youssef Chahine passed away on 27-07-08 in his home in Cairo.

The whole world mourned the death of this great filmmaker. Chahine always managed to move and provoke. Although some of his films are still bannned in the Arab world, they have been appreciated by non Arab audiences as important contributions to cinema.

The reaction to his death in Egypt has been that of genuine sadness at the loss of one of Egypt’s most important figures. However, the news coverage by Arab media, and the Egyptian “media” in particular, has been disgusting and disappointing. As the news of his death broke, the Egyptian channel failed to interrupt its ridicuilous vomit inducing makeover show. Instead, we had to endure the usual tedious irrelevence, much like the rest of the Egyptian channel’s content, to see if after the pathetic caller’s eyeshadow dilemnas are solved we would actually be given more information on his death, or, god forbid, actually watch one of his films! Naturally, nothing happened and stupidity ensued. This said a lot about the state of Egypt, just as he had in all of his films. Chahine was one of my heroes, and i don’t have many.

January 25 1926 – July 27 2008

Egyptian film Basra english poster

Basra is a brand new film by Egyptian director Ahmed Rashwan. The film’s name means snap. “basra” is the word Egyptians use in card games when two players have the same card. It’s also used in every day life when two people think the same thing or say the same word etc.

Events in the city of Basra and the beginning of the Iraq war provide the backdrop to this romantic and social realist film. This how the director describes the film in his own words.

100% Alive – مية في المية حي

Cairo, March 17, 2003. The US- UK strike against Iraq is imminent. How can an Egyptian photographer, in his thirties, surpass his own disappointments & fears?
How can he find an answer to the existential questions related to life, death, sex and logic amidst his awareness of all the absurdity around him? Can this artist remain alive (breathing, thinking, and photographing) surviving the oppressive atmosphere? Or is he going to collapse with the fall of Baghdad?

القاهرة في 17 مارس 2003 .. الحرب الأمريكية / البريطانية ضد العراق على الأبواب .. كيف يستطيع مصور مصري تجاوز الثلاثين من عمره أن يتجاوز إحباطاته و مخاوفه ؟
كيف يجد الإجابة عن المصيرية المتعلقة بالحياة و الموت و الجنس و المنطق وسط إحساسه بعبث ما يجري حوله ؟ ، هل يستطيع هذا الفنان الشاب أن يظل حيا (يتنفس / يفكر / يصور ) متجاوزا الجو العام الخانق ؟ أم أنه سيسقط مع تهاوي الأقنعة وسقوط بغداد ؟

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(100% Alive) is a true test that I embark upon boldly and enthusiastically on different levels: a test to the importance of independent Cinema to break free from those who treat Cinema as a commodity, the importance of cinema as a medium to communicate with the mind and tackle bold ideas and sensitive matters even in closed society, as well as a personal challenge that I face along with the protagonist about the importance of continuing to live life through art in the face of Death

Ahmed Rashwan

أن ( 100 % حي) ليس فقط بمثابة فيلم أوقعه بأسمي كمؤلف و مخرج ، و لكنه اختبار حقيقي أخوضه بجرأة و حماس على مستويات عدة .. اختبار لأهمية السينما المستقلة في التحرر من تجار السينما ، و أهمية السينما كوسيلة لمخاطبة العقل و مناقشة الأفكار الجريئة و الأسئلة الحساسة حتى في المجتمعات المغلقة ، و وتحدي شخصي أخوضه برفقة الشخصية الرئيسية في الفيلم عن أهمية استمرار الحياة بالفن في مواجهة الموت

أحمد رشوان

 

This is a truly independent film which could pave the way for more independent filmmakers in the Middle East. Basra, aka 100% Alive, will be released in the coming months and will hopefully get even more exposure at film festivals. Here’s hoping for a worldwide release and screenings.

UPDATE: Basra has been selected by the Valencia Film Festival, which begins 14/10/08 until 22/10/08.