Al Momia, which is commonly and rightfully acknowledged as one of the greatest Egyptian films ever made, is based on a true story: in 1881, precious objects from the Tanite dynasty started turning up for sale, and it was dis- covered that the Horabat tribe had been secretly raiding the tombs of the Pharaohs in Thebes. A rich theme, and an astonishing piece of cinema. The picture was extremely difficult to see from the 70s onward. I managed to screen a 16mm print which, like all the prints I’ve seen since, had gone magenta. Yet I still found it an entrancing and oddly moving experience, as did many others. I remember that Michael Powell was a great admirer. Al Momia has an extremely unusual tone – stately, poetic, with a powerful grasp of time and the sadness it carries. The carefully measured pace, the almost ceremonial movement of the camera, the desolate settings, the classical Arabic spoken on the soundtrack, the unsettling score by the great Italian composer Mario Nascimbene – they all work in perfect harmony and contribute to the feeling of fateful inevitability. Past and present, desecration and veneration, the urge to conquer death and the acceptance that we, and all we know, will turn to dust…a seemingly massive theme that the director, Shadi Abdel Salam, somehow manages to address, even emobody with his images. Are we obliged to plunder our heritage and everything our ancestors have held sacred in order to sustain ourselves for the present and the future? What exactly is our debt to the past? The picture has a sense of history like no other, and it’s not at all surprising that Roberto Rossellini agreed to lend his name to the project after reading the script. And in the end, the film is strangely, even hauntingly consoling – the eternal burial, the final understanding of who and what we are… I am very excited that Shadi Abdel Salam’s masterpiece has been restored to its original splendor. —Martin Scorsese, May 2009
NOTES ON THE RESTORATION
The restoration of Al Momia used the original 35mm camera and sound negatives preserved at the Egyptian Film Center in Giza. The digital restoration produced a new 35mm internegative. The film was restored with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
Shadi Abdel Salam was an Egyptian film director, screenwriter and Costume and set designer. Born in Alexandria on 15 March 1930, Shadi graduated from Victoria College, Alexandria, 1948, and then moved to England to study theater arts from 1949 to 1950. He then joined faculty of fine arts in Cairo where he graduated as an architect in 1955.
He worked as assistant to the artistic architect, Ramsis W. Wassef, 1957, and designed the decorations and costumes of some of the most famous historical Egyptian films among which are; Wa Islamah, El-Nasser Salah El-Din, Almaz wa Abdu El Hamouly.Worked as a historical consultant and supervisor of the decoration, costumes and accessories sections of the Polish film (Pharaoh), directed by Kavelorovitch.
Directed the long drama film entitled The Night of Counting the Years (Al-Momiaa), 1968–1969, and received many film awards for this work. Also directed the short drama film entitled El-Falah El-Faseeh (The Eloquent Peasant). Worked as… read more
Greatest film that came from Eygypt , it is in a different league from other Egyptian film (I watched a lot of Egyptian films). It is a film that have more in depth than the surface & will be understood more if you are an Arab or know about Arabic culture. Cinematography , directing & music are great, waiting to buy the restored copy to keep it in my collection. It is Sad that it is rarly showed in TV Channels.
This magnificent, haunting, eerie film in its recent restorative transformation was screened recently in Wellington New Zealand, at the International Film Festival to a spellbound audience. It is like a rare, rich treasure unearthed from the cinema vaults and one wonders what other works will be revealed in time from the past.
I've been searching for this film for years, and I finally found it free to watch on Google video. It really was worth the wait. It is a powerfully original film that deserves comparison with Tarkovsky and Kurosawa, wandering between life and death, the knowable and the unknowable. But it's more than a metaphysical battle, it is also a reflection on modernity and the violent desire for the past. Nothing remains black or white in this film - like Wanis's dusty galabiyya in the final scenes, such oppositions are placed radically in question, under the unseeing eyes of the statues, or in the blinding glare of the spotlight. As Martin Scorsese wrote, it is astonishing. I am looking forward to seeing the restored print in its proper form on the screen.