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Entries in film preservation (3)

Monday
Feb212011

For the Love of Film (Noir) - A Nightingale's Prayer



[This post is part of the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon, hosted by The Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films. The blogathon, running from 14th-21st February aims to to raise funds for the  Film Noir Foundation who do important work to restore and preserve the noir heritage. The donations will be used to restore The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me), directed by Cy Endfield. Please donate here.]

 

A Nightingale's Prayer ( دعاء الكروان / Doa'a Al Karawan in Arabic) is based on a novel by Taha Hussein. Directed by Henry Barakat, it stars Faten Hamama and Ahmed Mazhar. This film from 1959 tackles love, betrayal, revenge, murder, as well as Middle Eastern themes of tradition and shame.

Amna (Faten Hamama), her sister Hanadi (Zahrat El Ola) and mother (Amina Rizk) are forced to leave their village to escape the shame their murdered father has left them after he committed adultery. 

Moving away from Bedouin life in the desert,  the three women find their way to a nearby town and  are suddenly exposed to things they've never seen before like modern transportation and independent women. The two sisters find jobs as housemaids in separate homes.  All along you hear the girls being told to watch their behaviour, to be honourable, not to behave badly. 

 



Amna works for a middle class family and through their daughter’s education she is exposed to a world of music, literature, art and fashion that she didn't know about. 



Hanadi works for an engineer (Ahmed Mazher) and ends up being seduced by him. I still question if she was a willing partner or not, if it was guilt or shame that led her to confess to her Mother. Upon hearing the shameful news, the Mother decides it’s best they go back to their home and calls the uncle, now the  patriarch of the family, to take them back to their village. 

To preserve the family's honour (Hanadi is blamed for bringing "shame" to her family), the uncle kills her on the way to the village.



Amna, not able to cope with her sister’s death, escapes and goes back to the family she was working for. No longer the sweet and innocent young girl, she’s now burdened with sadness and loss. 



When she finds out where the Engineer lives (we never hear his name mentioned once throughout the film) and hears about his mischievous and flirtatious ways with women,  she decides she will avenge her sister’s death – she blames him for Hanadi’s death, he's the source of evil that led to her sister's death.

 

She takes up a job as his housemaid with a plot to poison him. The Engineer tries to have his way with her, just like he did with all the women that worked for him. But is it a case of him using his 'power' over the women that work for him or is it loneliness and an empty lifestyle that he's trying to escape? In all his attempts to "seduce" Amna, she manages to escape his tight grips. 



Although she was determined to kill him, she eventually finds out that she is not capable of murdering anyone. She resorts to flirtation, thinking he will fall for her and she will break his heart and devastate him. But the Engineer’s behaviour changed, he was no longer chasing her or showed any interest in her.

 


Little by little, through various situations, she begins to seei the "human" side of him. Her feelings  towards him starts to change, but she still cannot forget what he did to her sister and eventually tells him the truth.

At the beginning of the film, Amna is young and naïve. But she starts maturing emotionally and mentally in the second half of the film, her rage is taken over by confusion and emotions she’s never felt before. The love that develops between her and the engineer soon leads to tragedy.

Saturday
Feb192011

For the Love of Film (Noir) - Cairo Station


[This post is part of the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon, hosted by The Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films. The blogathon, running from 14th-21st February aims to to raise funds for the  Film Noir Foundation who do important work to restore and preserve the noir heritage. The donations will be used to restore The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me), directed by Cy Endfield. Please donate here.]


Cairo Station* by Youssef Chahine from 1958 is one of the first Arab films to adapt techniques of Italian neo-realism and American film noir. A suspense thriller set in a Cairo train station; it’s a departure from the sweet natured films of the 1950s. The film addresses the themes of sexual repression, revenge, murder.

Cairo Station follows three main characters, Abu Serib (Farid Shawqi), a hard working porter trying to form a union to fight corruption and bring equal rights to his fellow workers; his fiancée Hanuma (Hind Rostom), the femme fatale of the film who flirts her way to sell lemonade to train passengers, which takes away from the earnings of the station’s official drink vendor; and Kenawi (played by Chahine himself) a crippled newspaper vendor who is obsessed with Hanuma.


The frantic pace in the station reflects the pace of life in Cairo along with all the characters that walk through the station. You see the workers, the bourgeoisie, the religious and the free spirited. The station tells a story of a city, but it also tells a story through the eyes of the very disturbed Kenawi - who appears harmless but is really the dark soul in this film. 



Kenawi's creepy stares at women, his collection of pin-up models in his shed makes you realise he is disturbed, you can see his sexual repression and sense it will lead to something dangerous. The film is set in one day and scene-by-scene, you can feel the tension growing leading to chaos, violence and kidnapping – all with dire consequences.

Watching this movie again after such a long time made me realize that its storyline and characters are timeless and the film is relevant today as it was over 50 years ago. The film was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1958. It was banned for 20 years, but since 1978 it has been recognized as an Egyptian classic and a masterpiece.

 

Trailer


A scene from the film

 

* The Arabic title for this film is باب الحديد (Bab El Hadid), which literally means Iron Gate.


www.selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com
www.ferdyonfilms.com
www.filmnoirfoundation.org
For the Love of Film blog
For the Love of Film on Facebook
www.youssefchahine.us
www.amazon.com/Cairo-Station-Youssef-Chahine

Saturday
Feb052011

For the Love of Film (Noir) blogathon

 

Last February, I took part in a blogathon called For the Love of Film hosted by Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Film. Its aim was to raise funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation - an independent, nonprofit organization created to rescue endangered films that will not survive without public support. Eighty one bloggers took part and contributed over 100 posts and $30,000 was raised. It was a fun experience for me as I really enjoyed finding some amazing archival footage that I contributed to this blogathon. You can see my entries here.

Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Film are hosting another blogathon this year dedicated to Film Noir. For the Love of Film (Noir) blogathon aims to raise funds for the  Film Noir Foundation. The donations will be used to restore The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me), directed by Cy Endfield. 

From Ferdy on Film

The film recounts the same story Fritz Lang told in Fury (1936) and was directed by Cy Endfield, who would run afoul of the Hollywood blacklist. Its star, Lloyd Bridges, never had a better role, and Eddie told me that when Jeff and Beau Bridges finally saw the film, they were blown away by his performance. A nitrate print of the film will be restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, using a reference print from Martin Scorsese’s personal collection to guide them and fill in any blanks. Paramount Pictures, which now owns the film, has agreed to help fund the restoration, but FNF is going to have to come up with significant funds to get the job done. That’s where we come in.


The blogathon starts on 14th February and will go on till 21st February. I plan to take part and aim to share  posts about film noir from the Middle East.

If you want to take part, please contact Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Film and send the link to your post to:

Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Film (email: ferdyonfilms[at]comcast[dot]com) and to Self-Styled Siren (email: campaspe101[at]yahoo[dot]com). They will keeping track of the submissions and will add the links on their blogs.
Make sure you include the donation link on your post, www.filmnoirfoundation.org/contribute.html.

Check out this film noirtastic trailer made by made by Greg Ferrara to promote the blogathon.

 

www.selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com
www.ferdyonfilms.com
www.filmnoirfoundation.org
For the Love of Film blog
For the Love of Film on Facebook