Seif el din Khaled

Abstract

This paper analyzes the Egyptian film The Night of Counting the Years, also known as The Mummy or Almummia, by director Shady Abdel Salam. The primary aim of this research is to underline the value of the film as an example of artistic expression that reflects upon the cultural, social and economic state of Egypt of that time, and raises essential questions regarding the concepts of tradition, modernity, history and identity of contemporary Egypt. The film represents a significant attempt at innovation within the framework of Egyptian cinematic production. The paper will focus, with reference to culture and aesthetics, on the techniques through which Egyptian artist and director Shadi Abdel Salam narrates and achieves a complex telling of the discovery of Deir El-Bahari royal mummy cache in 1881 in his film The Night of Counting the Years (Egypt, 1969).

The film describes how the Hurabat tribe lived off of illegal trafficking in antiquities obtained from profane pharaonic tombs. The Hurabat live in Upper Egypt, in an arid and mountainous area surrounded by desert and close to the Nile River. The archaeological ruins of the pharaonic period there make up the daily landscape of the little village. The plot focuses on the conflict that arises when the sons of the recently deceased tribe leader are brought up to date on the origin of the livelihood of the tribe. This analysis intends to interpret and contextualize the main elements that come together to form Salam’s piece, a “historical” film (insofar as it deals with an episode of Egyptian history). The film can be defined as belonging to the genre of author cinema. It is a production that hardly references any Egyptian film prior; it stands out in the context of Egyptian and Arab cinematography for its innovative style, both in terms of the theme that articulates the narrative and the aesthetic conception.

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