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Jeremy Colson


Jeremy Colson's festival coverage.

Film Festival ambassador to filmfestivals.com
Visiting Athens, Bangkok, Cairo, Hanoi, Hiroshima, Phuket, Istanbul, Antalya, Estonia, Calcutta, Goa, Trivandrum, Kathmandu, Neasden and more.


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"The Mummy" lives on, thanks to Scorsese

Shadi Abdel Salam (1930–1986)

 

CAIRO ~ Though Martin Scorsese had to cancel his visit to Egypt at the last moment, his presence was strongly felt at the Cairo International Film Festival here on Wednesday night when the classic version of The Mummy was screened.

If it hadn't been for Scorsese this Egyptian classic might have just crumbled into obscurity, as has much of this country's history

But as the result of financial support from the Martrin Scorsese World Cinema Foundation it was recently restored and will now live on for eternity.

It would have been good to watch The Mummy in Cannes where it was shown in its restored version for the first time earlier this year, but surely there could be no finer backdrop to watch it than the pyaramids themselves.

And that's what we got on Wednesday evening.

It was chilly, even windy at certain moments during the 102 minute screening but if it had snowed it would not have detracted from the magic.  

"The Mummy" or The Night of Counting the Years, stands as the only full length feature film made by Shadi Abdel Salam (1930–1986) who was better known as a set designer.

Shadi was deeply disturbed by the decline of Egypt over the centuries, and he saw in the  making of the film an opportunity to give Egyptians of the 20th century a better understanding of their past.

The result is a brooding atmospheric work that deals with the mysterious relationship between the centuries-old families of the village of Gourna, and Egypt's past; and implicitly  it deals with the identity of the country today.

The film  is based on the true story of the discovery of 40 Royal Mummies in 1881 in Thebes, the capital of the Pharaonic Empire.

For over three thousand years, the mummies had lain undisturbed, until some archaeologists from the Antiquities Department in Cairo noticed that several objects bearing royal names from the 21st dynasty were constantly appearing on the antique black market.

They surmise that somewhere in Thebes, someone knows the location of the missing tombs.

As It happens, this secret has been kept from generation to generation by the chief's descendants among the Horabat mountain tribe. These people have always considered the Royal Cache to be a private source of income on which to draw at times of need.

The money had then been divided among the members of the tribe. When the archaeologists arrive to find the tombs, the two sons of the dead tribal chief are thrown into a moral dilemma, not knowing whether to reveal the secret or preserve what the tribesmen consider to be their natural heritage.

The younger son, Waniss, becomes the central figure in the story film.

Are the Gourna families the custodians of the country's heirlooms and treasures, or are they just tomb robbers living off the proceeds from black market sales?

This film is ponderous, even grandiose, but at the same time mesmerising. The cinematography is outstanding. Some of the scenes of black-clad tribesman arising as if out of the sand are unforgettable, almost haunting.

The soundtrack is no less impressive. A lot of bass and echo is used to give the voices of the male protagonists a tone that is almost god-like. And the music track features a constant electrifying sizzling sound that runs continuously throughout the film.

Whether or not The Mummy will enable Egyptians of today to tie into their past and see themselves as the noble descendants of the world's first great civilisation is difficult to say. What can be said is that the preservation of this classic movie is now assured for future generations to decide.

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About Jeremy Colson

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This is the diary of a festival ambassador travelling throughout Asia and elsewhere around the world.  Festivals covered include: Bangkok, Phuket, Istanbul, Antalya, Estonia, London, Calcutta, Goa, Trivandrum, Chennai, Neasden and more


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