This topic is part of the 2012 MUBI World Cup. If you have not already done so, please read the first post at the topic for an introduction to and rules about this year’s World Cup:
The purpose of this topic is to cast votes in the matchup listed above and also to be a forum for discussing the films in the match.
Anyone who has seen both of the films listed above may vote in this match. You must vote for whichever of the two films you personally like better. In order to vote you must post a reply to this topic containing one of the following sequences:
If you are voting for The Land: “Egypt (The Land) 1 – Taiwan (The Wayward Cloud) 0”
If you are voting for The Wayward Cloud: “Egypt (The Land) 0 – Taiwan (The Wayward Cloud) 1”
Your vote must contain the names of both films with a “one” after the film you are voting for and a “zero” after the other film. If your vote is not formatted in this way it will not be counted.
Along with your vote you are strongly encouraged to leave additional comments regarding your reactions to the films, your reasons for why you voted the way you did, and responses to other participants’ comments. Being able to have deep discussion about the films and different aspects of them is an important part of finding enjoyment in participating in the World Cup.
This match will end on Friday, July 20 at 10:00 PM GMT. No votes attempted to be cast after that time will be counted. Shortly after the match ends the votes will be tallied and a winner of the match will be declared. If the films both receive the same number of votes, the match will be considered a tie.
The percentage of votes each film receives in a match will have an effect on whether or not the corresponding country will participate in the final round of the World Cup. Thus even if the film you vote for loses in this match, your vote will still be important.
The results of the matches as well as the schedule for future matches can be found here:
If you would like to participate but are unable to find sources to watch these films, please send me a personal message so that I can invite you to the private website featuring internet links to view the films.
Egypt (The Land) 1 – Taiwan (The Wayward Cloud) 0
The easier match I can find. And not just because I submitted The Land, I really dislike The Wayward Cloud. I quite like Tsai’s early films (Rebels of the Neon God, Vive L’Amour) but his hero’s wayward misadventures have become less and less interesting for me.
Since the script of The Land is very rich and complex I post here a complete synopsis (thanks to Michael Dembrow). Obviously this contains spoilers:
Set in the cotton-growing countryside alongside the Nile, The Land is a celebration of the land (and water) that has provided the basis for life and the life cycle in the Nile Valley for millenium after millenium. It is simultaneously a moral outcry and a call to action. Though eminently Egyptian, there is much in this story that speaks to all of the African continent.
The film is an epic story of two generations coming together to resist the expropriation of their land and their traditional values. As epics do, this film revolves around a large set of individuals. The older generation is represented by Abou Swelem, Sheikh Youssef, and Sheikh Hassouna, all of whom participated in the struggle for independence in 1919 and spent hard time in prison. Since then, Sheikh Youssef has gone on to become a bitter, exploitive shopkeeper. Sheikh Hassouna has become a politician, abandoned the land, and moved to Cairo. Only Abou Swelem—unlike his educated comrades—has remained a peasant, working his land in the traditional manner.
The younger generation is represented by Abou Swelem’s lovely daughter, Wassifa; the two men who are rivals for her hand—the educated Mohammed Effendi and the peasant Abdel Hadi; Diab, the crude workhorse brother of Mohammed Effendi; Elwani, a landless, foolish young man (those without land are rootless, irresponsible, cut off from the sources of tradition); and Khadra, a high-spirited, tragic woman without husband, family, or land.
In addition, there are the lords and their lackeys. Chief among them is Mahmoud Bey, wealthy, effete, and influential. We also have the corrupt mayor and his toady sidekick, Abdel Ati, as well as the government officials, police, and soldiers who come to help in the repression of the villagers.
The first image of the film is a close-up of Abou Swelem’s work-toughened fingers caressing a young cotton plant and the earth from which it grows. He is tough, hard-headed, with a proud, belligerent moustache, eyes that can flash in anger or melt in sentiment and yearning, particularly when he gazes at the plot of land that is like a living thing for him. A widower, he lives in simple self-sufficiency with his sister and beautiful daughter. He is visited by an absentee landlord from the city who has returned to the village for the mayor’s wedding (the mayor has of course chosen a young girl as his latest bride). Abou Swelem complains about the government policy of giving the peasants access to river water for irrigation only ten days per month. Little does he know that the wheels are already turning to reduce the irrigation time to five days per month, in order to divert it to wealthy magnates such as Mahmoud Bey.
A parallel plot strand has to do with the question of who will win the love of Wassifa, who in a sense represents the future. Will it be the handsome, awkward, powerful Abdel Hadi, almost a reincarnation of her father as a young man, a strong link to the past? Or will it be Mohammed Effendi, wealthy, educated, boyish, slightly ridiculous, and naive? Early on, we see her toying with the spoiled, immature son of the wealthy absentee landowner, but this goes nowhere and the boy quickly vanishes from the story.
Word of the change in irrigation policy comes down in the middle of the wedding celebration, and the men try to figure out the appropriate course of action. The fiery young Abdel Hadi wants to defy the government and irrigate anyway, and Abou Swelem agrees. Hadi’s rival, Mohammed Effendi, wants to petition the government to change the plan, and they agree on this course. However, they naively decide to enlist the aid of Mahmoud Bey, who has good connections in Cairo. Mahmoud Bey, of course, has his own agenda. As a result of their petition, not only will they not gain more access to water, but many of them will lose their land entirely, to make room for a paved road leading up to Mahmoud Bey’s new mansion.
Effendi goes to Cairo to plead their case, but eventually realizes Mahmoud Bey’s treachery. Though tempted by Mahmoud Bey’s offer to make him his partner, Effendi instead goes to his uncle Hassouna, now a legislator, to secure his help. Hassouna declares that their only means of resistance is to unite the villagers: unless the village acts as one, nothing can be done. Hassouna returns to the village to find that most of the peasants have already been locked up for violating the irrigation policy. The men are tortured, and even forced to endure the company of Sheikh Shaban, a religious fanatic who will turn out to be a government agent (and eventually, the murderer of Khadra). Abou Swelem must even face the supreme indignity of having his moustache shaved off. The women, led by Wassifa, fearlessly protest, and help to secure their release. However, the respite is only temporary, for the government still insists upon enforcing its predatory policies. Even the mayor’s dismissal and death (worn out by his new wife) changes nothing; the problem is clearly systemic.
Buoyed by Hassouna’s inspiring presence, the villagers continue to resist, even when a camel-mounted brigade of soldiers is sent to occupy the town. However, despite his blandishments to the villagers to forget their own interests and maintain their solidarity, even Hassouna himself finally falls prey to the narrower interests of his family and sinks into betrayal. Ultimately, only Abou Swelem remains true to their original vision. The various betrayals are also offset by courageous acts of contrition and solidarity by Abdel Ati and the soldiers’ commanding officer, Sergeant Abdallah, and in the end, villagers and even landless laborers come to help Swelem in a fruitless attempt to harvest his crop before he is stripped of his land. But inevitably Abou Swelem will pay for his stubborn resistance, just as was predicted in the beginning of the film.
As the film began with Abou Swelem’s hands caressing his beloved earth, so it ends with him being literally dragged from it, fingers clutching and clawing in an impossible attempt to hold onto that which the inexorable forces of corruption and privilege are stealing from him. It is an extraordinarily powerful ending.
According to the Egyptian critic Samir Farid: The Land is one of four groundbreaking Egyptian films produced in the aftermath of the 1967 military defeat, which caused the Egyptian regime to adopt a more tolerant view of culture and to allow a wider margin of expression to the opposition. The other three films were The Night of Counting the Years by Shadi Abdel-Salam, Some Fear by Hussein Kamal, and My Wife and the Dog by Said Marzouk. Chahine’s The Land is based on a socialist-realist novel of the same name by novelist Abdel-Rahman el-Sharqawi, who also cooperated with Chahine on the script of the film. Set in colonial Egypt, the film recounts the struggle between a community of peasants and the feudal owner of their land who wants to confiscate the land in order to construct a road leading to his palace. Chahine reached new heights in his use of a realist style in this film, infusing the whole with beautiful shots of peasant farmers picking cotton, or of coming out en masse to defend themselves against the soldiers brought in by their feudal landlord to quell their protests.
Of his use of realism in the film, Chahine said that “I have long stopped worrying about what is realist and what is not. Mohamed Abu Soweilim [the main character in The Land ] falling down at the end of the film while being dragged to his death by soldiers on horseback is a realist enough gesture, but for him to plough the land with his bleeding fingers as he dies is not. When I thought about this, I realised that it didn’t bother me whether the two gestures were realist or not. I just went ahead and filmed them.”
And one more thing, Mahmoud El-Meliguy gives the performance of a lifetime.
I love The Wayward Cloud. Tsai is at the top of my list of favorite filmmakers. But I’m pretty excited to see The Land as well.
Can anyone with the ability move this to the World Cup section?
I’m bumping this just because it didn’t get put in the World Cup section and I don’t want people who were searching there to miss it
still hoping to have someone put this in the world cup section
Riss, I’m trying to move it…
With my mind.
Couldn’t download the Taiwanese film. Thought the Youssef Chahine’s title representing Egypt was a great one. Also couldn’t find this voting site on the World Cup thread, but it’s in the forum. Maybe my computer skills are slipping. Maybe the bytes just don’t care anymore, or laugh when I pull out the whip.
Brother, the StageVu link isn’t working? It should be streaming video.
It’s too bad you couldn’t see it. It’s a great film! Surprised it hasn’t received any votes yet.
Egypt (The Land) 0 – Taiwan (The Wayward Cloud) 1
The Land got better as it went along.
I’m sorry to pile on here with a vote and no substantial comments, but am too harried right now to put together anything worthwhile.
Hopefully I can make some more comments later.
VOTING IS CLOSED
Egypt (The Land) – 4
Taiwan (The Wayward Cloud) – 2
The winner is:
My homeland, my homeland, my homeland, You have my love and my majesty. My homeland, my homeland, my homeland, You have my love and my majesty.
Riss—I’ll watch the Wayward Cloud at some point. I liked Tsai Ming-liang’s earlier efforts quite a bit, he had a new sensibility and style; an independent look into Taiwanese life as well. In later years, my interest has been waning. Look forward to seeing Wayward Cloud, maybe it will rekindle my delight in his abilities.
As for The Land, Youssef Chahine taught me never to fuck with an Egyptian male’s mustache. Perhaps a sentiment Magpies would also encourage.
don’t talk about facial hair, it’s too soon!
Sorry Ruby, you’re right of course.
Look forward to seeing Wayward Cloud, maybe it will rekindle my delight in his abilities.
It’s definitely somewhat different than most of his films, so it could be a bit deceptive.
Riss—I’ve read a bit about it and it sounds different than most anybody’s films, which makes it somewhat tantalizing. I’ll let you know what I think when I see it.
This might be a trite comment, but I love good Egyptian cotton pillows. So soft.