Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Magic We Forgot

Last Thursday I watched a wonderful Egyptian documentary , yes an Egyptian , I know it seems strange , we do not have a real documentary cinema like abroad despite we got big names in the documentaries world like for instance Farida Arman , Samiha Ghonam and Attiyat Al-Abnodi.

This documentary is called { سحر ما فات فى كنوز المرئيات } The magic of what had passed in the treasures of the visuals” , I know it is a very silly long name. Its director is Dr. Madkor Thabat ,the former chairman of the Arts academy  if I am not mistaken besides other official positions. Of course he made this film after leaving the service.

This film was produced from two years ago and up till now the government for some unknown reason did not permit its public screening !! It was a strange thing because the film in the early screenings whether for critics or at national film and documentaries festivals received high positive reactions. The film is produced by businessman Ahmed 01servlet Bahgat ,the owner of Dream Channels , it was hard for Thabat to do it alone and as you may know our ministry of culture does not really interested in anything serious like that !!

The idea of the film according to Thabat was to show the importance of our visual modern history presented in newsreel as we can know a lot and re-read our history again from these newsreels , of course you know I am already doing this in my blog ;)

The film depends only 35mm films focusing on Egypt in last 100 years or to be precise from 1897 to the inauguration of Toshka and Salam pound in Mubarak’s era. Thabat focused more on Egypt before the revolution as this is the era most people know nothing about it and the news media during that time besides press and radio was newsreel in cinemas , so there are plenty of material for him. It was well known that in 1897 the Lumière brothers had sent one of their photographers to Egypt to capture the life in that fascinating country called Egypt. Yes Life in Egypt in the 19th century was captured on film shown in Paris from more than 100 years and this is what the film includes in its first part after the quick introduction of Nasser funeral in 1970 and Nasser in 1948 , yes President Nasser.

I will stop at here and leave you with the film ,please enjoy it.I will complete my review below :

The film is narrated by actors Mahamed Wafiq and Mahmoud El-Genndy, I believe Wafiq was enough , also Thabat narrates parts of the film where he is reciting the names of our heroes who died in 1948 war, six days war and Yom Kippur war.

These events were covered in the documentary : “too many but I tried to point them”

  • Lumière brothers’ footage in Egypt.
  • The 1919 revolution and the return of Saad Pasha from exile.
  • Sir Lee Stack, Sirdar and Governor-General of the Sudan’s funeral after his assassination in Cairo
  • King Farouk arrival from UK and the reception he received from the people after the death of his father King Ahmed Fouad.
  • The 1948 war ---- > very rare footage before and after the war , especially the reception of the Egyptian people and the officers cemeteries in Khan Yunis,Gaza not to mention King Farouk’s visit to the front and Nasser appearance in the minister of defense’s visit to the front too. “ The Jordanians should watch this part carefully !!”
  • Mohamed Naguib and the free officers after the revolution.
  • The Nasser Arab nationalism in Syria and Lebanon
  • The Nile flood ---> first time to see it like that.
  • Suez War , terrible footage
  • The 1967 defeat
  • The funeral of Nasser
  • 1973 war “very short”
  • The re-inauguration  of Suez Canal on the 5th of June 1975
  • Nothing important in Mubarak’s era for real.”I think this is why the film was screened publicly”

Now the film is more than a call to grab our attention to our history in the newsreel for sure , Thabat himself said that he did not know when he started making it that it would turn to a political historical documentary in its way.

Thabat’s political views are clearly present in the documentary, he is a Nasserite , it is so obvious starting from the moment he began his film with Nasser’s funeral and finding Nasser in Hydar Pasha’s visit to the front in 1948. This weakened the film some how despite to be honest I was surprised that he was fair to both King Farouk and President Naguib. Still he was not fair towards Sadat and Mubarak especially Sadat , of course he may have a valid point that starting from 1970s the use of 35mm films began to decline but … there were films for Sadat.

There is also part that I did not understand in the end , concerning late Princess Diana to Egypt ,I felt lost here , it did not make any sense. I did not understand the part regarding banking industry in Egypt , I know very well that its start was a colonial industry dominated by Jews but let’s remember something , not all the Jews in Egypt then were Zionists. Of course the facts he mentioned in the documentary from the existence of Zionist organizations in Egypt

I started with what I did not like , now what I like is how Thabat should that the Egyptian people do not change a bit , it is the same old kind people who cheer up for any leader stands on Abdeen Palace’s balcony as long as they have hope and faith in that leader , of course from Farouk to Sadat they were kept cheering and cheering , Mubarak does not like to stand balconies except of course for his NDP cheerers !!

I like the idea of the Nile importance of the this country since from a very long time and how it was a part of our national security.

I like the idea of the cotton importance and history in Egypt , I do not need to say that it made me so sad because this year Egypt is no longer from the main producers of Cotton in the world thanks to our government’s decisions !!

The 1948 war footage was like a big surprise to me than the 1897 footage.

Israel and Zionism were there in the documentary as the historical enemy of Egypt since the 19th century. Of course I want to correct something this Zionist colony in Kom Ombo was not the first Zionist Colony the Zionist movement tried to found in Egypt , there was another one in the 19th century in Sinai that led us to lose our control on Aqaba Gulf and City too. Some may think that Thabat is anti-Semitic ,which is untrue he is anti-Zionist. 

I can’t considered it a 100% bad Nasserite film or documentary  because then I will not be fair or even respect the political beliefs of Thabat , he is a director who has the right to express his thoughts in the same way other directors have the right to do it. At least he did not attack King Farouk and President Naguib nor did he glorified the Nasser era in the same way for instance like Khalid Youssef does in his films. I like the film and up till I am thinking about it not in the context of Nasser and Sadat.. etc but in the context that history is repeating itself, Farouk just like Nasser when both of them were taking the train across Egypt , when both of them were visiting the front before the 1948 war in case of Farouk and six days war in case of Nasser and both wars ended with tragedies !! History does repeat it and yet we the Egyptians do not learn from our mistakes at all !!

My advice to you is to watch it and enjoy it, more important to think about it over and over.


  1. My grandparent used to be the landlord of Mr.Madkour, I used 2 c him a lot when I sleep over at my grannies back in the old days, he's such a nice person and very intellectual =) I was always fascinated by his coversation with my grandfather!

    I loved the film, thx Z

    btw Mr.Thabet was the censorer before Mr.Abu Chadi(u can add that to ur intro)

  2. تسلمى يا زنوبيا
    اختيار موفق جدا
    معرفش بحس انى متسمر قدام التليفزيون لمابشوف اى حاجه قديمة وخصوصا لو كانت وثائقية
    يمكن نوع من الإحساس بالحنين الى الماضى
    شكرا لك على المقال الممتاز ده

  3. Yup this is an excellent documentary and I think the long name aimed to match our old heritage books like تلخيص الابريز في تلخيص باريز for Rifa3a el-Tahtawy.

    I liked that he tried to make a balance for the 2 eras before and after 1952 which is something good because as you know, people tend to exaggerate either for or aganist ;)

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Zeinobia :)


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