Throughout his long and eclectic career, Chahine’s main focus was the lives of ordinary Egyptians. Seismic political changes provided a dramatic backdrop to his socially anchored neo-realist work and his epic re-imaginings of the past.

Chahine was fascinated by human desire — the complexity of emotions and relationships — and ambition, making his work at once seductive, humanist and politically charged. Yet it was also often playful, even comedic. His love of early Hollywood permeates his films, as evinced by his use of musical interludes, while his lifelong obsession with Hamlet is made clear in his semi-autobiographical Alexandria trilogy.

A household name across the Arab world and feted internationally throughout his career, Chahine continues to appeal to his Egyptian audience; at Cairo Airport his portrait welcomes you to the city. 


Drama and Desire: The Films of Youssef Chahine is curated by Elhum Shakerifar at BFI, in cultural partnership with Ciné Lumière and SAFAR Film Festival

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