Vol.1, No. 1, (November 1995)|
FATHER OF NEO-REALISM IN EGYPTIAN CINEMA PASSES AWAY
Atef Al Tayeb Leaves A Rich Legacy
By Al Jadid Staff Writers
With the death of Atef Al Tayeb, the Egyptian cinema lost one of its prominent figures, a director who contributed--along with other directors-- to the tradition of neo-realism, a school strongly represented during the 1980's. Tayeb's legacy, scores of films, dared to explore a wide range of issues, ranging from the cultural and economic to psychological.
Hardly 48 years old, Tayeb died after a bypass heart surgery-- that caused a hemorrhage. Shortly before his death, he just completed his latest film, Jabr al Khawater [Consolation]. During the International Egyptian Film Festival last year, Tayeb was awarded a best director prize for his film Layla Sakhina [Hot Night].
Along with several of his fellow directors, Tayeb attempted a renewal in Egyptian cinema, utilizing present contributions, artistic traditions and realistic issues. In translating this approach, he started like many others by making short documentary films and then moved toward fiction pictures. He started his with Al Ghira al Katila [Deadly Jealousy] , and then Sawak al Autobis [the Bus Driver], a work that attracted the attention of audiences and critics, and established him as one of the great Egyptian directors.
Sawak al Autobis ushered the onset of neo-realism, paving the way for a new generation of directors to renew Egyptian cinema. Sawak al Autobis depicts the tribulations of an Egyptian family, caught unprepared in dealing with the effects of "Egypt's open door policy," the move from a state controlled economy to economic liberalization during the 1970's and 1980's. The members of this family are engrossed with their own interests, bypassing others and ridding themselves of any family or moral commitment that may stand in the way of achieving their goals. Deviating from this culture of Infitah, the Arabic term for the "open door policy," was the eldest son, who chose to stand by his sick father and struggle to save the factory from being put up for foreclosure. Whether in terms of direction or technicalities, or in terms of choosing the subject and showing concern with the social problems, the critics chose Sawak al Autobis as one of the ten best films produced after the 1952 revolution, according to director Radwan al Kashif. Sawak al Autobis has earned several Egyptian awards and the First Award in the Delhi Festival.
Tayeb did not shun politics, even the most controversial topics such as political prisons, the innocent, and those sought and pursued by government on false grounds. In Al Bar'i [The Innocent], the conscript (Ahmad Zaki) uncovers a lie--the deception used by the government in the prison to mobilize conscripts and instigate them to torture prisoners , told that they are enemies of the nation. This theme led the Egyptian authorities first to ban the film and then to delete the last part of it.
With the loss of Atef al Tayeb, many Arabs seem to have a date with sorrow: not only do they lose a great director, but they are about to lose essential freedoms, clearly evident in the many bills debated in the Egyptian Parliament censoring films and directors.
Copyright (c) 1995 by Al Jadid