By: Safaa El-Leithi
Translated by: Fadi Ghali
The director “Ali Badrakhan” is proud to be raised in the house of his father, the great director Ahmed Badrakhan, as since he was a primary student, he has been filming and participating in contests. He lived in a house built on a piece of land that was a part of a studio premises. In his childhood he played in shooting sets and editing rooms. He got tied to the cinema profession and practiced in simple - but crucial - jobs in cinematography, such as measuring light exposure, installing camera lenses, riding a chariot and moving like the most talented operator. He learned carpentry in location sets and When one of his carpentry workers travels, he gets him on his way back his gift, a carpenter’s hammer.
Ali Badrakhan has grown up with an early sense of film, camera and editing - where he is way different from his generation filmmakers, and this is why he began his career before them five years earlier - through the Cinema professional & technical craftsmanship entrance.
Ali made his debut film "The Love That Was" in 1973 after 7 years as an assistant director from 1967 until 1974. As for his last film as assistant director - “The bird” - was directed by Youssef Chahine, with whom he assisted in the film direction of the "The Choice” film in 1971." Shahine used to dub him as "Dokdok" (one of the Egyptian cinema characters who became a symbol for young brilliant boys).
What distinguishes Badrakhan from his generation is not only his early work in cinema and filmmaking craftsmanship, but also his involvement in the public work – where he began with training young people on the weapons use in the popular people’s resistance of 1967. He then connected to the Palestinian cause and volunteered as a media advisor to the Palestinian Red Crescent to work with children and young people for democratic knowledge rehabilitation through civic social work, as he turned a part of his home to the Society of "Little Eagles’ Nursery" to apply this idea. A nursery and a library in the house where he lived until recently, when he was forced to sell it to survive because of the lack of work, in a time where Film production became scarce.
A third aspect of his difference from his generation, is that he is committed to teaching filmmaking to the Film Institute students, in addition to public work practice - through the Cinema syndicate - as a council member elected from his colleagues for years and active with them against the anti-democratic law 103. Badrakhan does not just claim to be an ideologist or a filmmaker who deals with major issues on the big screen, but he is biased to it in real life first, then secondly in his films. This public work indulgence may be the reason that reduced his filmmaking rate, that did not exceed ten films, where its last was in 2002.
"The Love That Was" was the Badrakhan’s debut film with a screenplay written by the late Raafat Al Meihi, and his last was "The Desire" adapted from the American play (a vehicle called Desire). In between, Badrakhan introduced two broad film types: the social realist cinema, and the political criticism cinema ranging from comedy to tragedy.
Badrakhan is one of the few directors who provide a psychological analysis for the sexual relationship between men and women - in a mature vision that reflects an understanding of this instinct, not as a sin but as a seductress of human beings who surrender to her in order to stick to life itself.
"The Love That Was" film is about a real story narrated by the director to the screenplay writer Raafat Al Mehi. The film won the Critics’ Award, and I remember that I stopped at the love making scene that he portrayed in romance between the wife and her lover, and on the other side, her disgusted sex practice with the husband feeling raped. A different approach from previous films in Egyptian cinema focused on the treason horror stereotype and its portrayal as a sin that deserves punishment, in the end of course. "The whole film is a condemnation against all the classes and their absurd logic, introduced to public by Raafat al-Mehy and Ali Badrakhan in the 1960s, and still its ideas are still being debated among contemporary youth in the third millennium, but their ideas are conservative and reactionary - disguised in a false religious dress." Safaa El Lithy – Cinema World
Samir Farid wrote: "The film deals with violent & heavy criticism of ancient traditions and concepts of love, sex and marriage - through a love story that is hampered by these traditions and concepts ... At first there is an awakening dream, in which Maha / Souad Hosni conceives during sex with her husband that there’s people pushing her to put lipstick on her mouth. This -wide angel shot - dream, seems to be a strong expression of a failed marriage where sex -despite legitimacy - becomes a kind of prostitution ...
"Farid writes this paragraph in black with a note: the published lines in black have been banned from the article by the censorship when it was first published in the Republic Newspaper (El Gomhuriah) (3/1/1974).”
When critic Samir Farid wrote about the film, I was in the year before my graduation from the Higher Institute of Cinema (Film Editing 1975) & I and my generation were all attending the Egyptian Film Critics' Association screenings and I witnessed Badrakhan awarded the Critics’ Award for his Debut film. When Later on the “Samir Farid & Samy El Salamony critics’ articles” were gathered about the 80’s filmmakers’ generation - dubbing them the new Egyptian realism filmmakers - including Khairi Bishara, Atef al-Tayeb and Mohammed Khan - they were preceded by Ali Badrakhan already earlier in production, who joined the bunch later, especially with his films "The People of the Summit” in 1981 and "The Hunger” in 1986, starting with Naguib Mahfouz stories - projecting his artistic political vision in reality as a Sadat Regime’s opposite & a Palestinian Liberation Organization’s supporter.
According to his methodology, Samir Farid made an interpretation of Ali Badrakhan films in the light of Egypt & its artists’ political & social background in a period “he called the era of the transformations (1967-1981)”, which was characterized by the defeat of June 1967 and its impact on the sixties generation, and extends through the death of Nasser, the Peace treaty with Israel harshly rejected by Badrakhan’s generation, along with the openness’ policies in late 70’s ending up with Sadat’s assassination in 1981, and the also journey’s start line of the eighties cinema for Badrakhan group and his generation.
About "Al Karnak" film
Abdel-Aal Al-Hamamsi asked Naguib Mahfouz: "The Karnak" is based on your novel with the same title. Did the film fulfill your vision implied in the novel? I say this because you always say that your relationship ends with any adapted-on-your-novels-film, with the end of writing your novel?” Mahfouz then replied with obvious enthusiasm: "The film fulfilled the vision of my novel to a great extent, and added: specially the coverage of the period following the writing of the story itself ... The film condemns terrorism, and it is inconceivable for some to believe that condemning terrorism is a condemnation of the revolution. The film glorifies the rectification revolution which is a part of the July Revolution track and its achievements.)
Al-Hamamsi Interview with Mahfouz published in Al-Kawakeb magazine 6 April 1976.
"My message in Karnak was that oppression and suppression are the cause of our defeats”,
"Shafiqa and Metwally" 1978
under the title "politicizing the saga and renewing the form" wrote Siham al Salam:
An important question about the film known story of the popular saga, what new can director Ali Badrakhan bring to the audience of a film who know its story in advance?
Ali Badrakhan solved this dilemma on two levels. At the moral level, the director and the screenwriter Salah Jahine moved out with the story from the personal social frame - the shame-motived murder - to the general political framework, as Shafiqa died in the film as a victim of a political assassination. As for the outlook frame, Badrakhan has used two key tools to present the film's narrative in a new and attractive way: the first tool was the narrator and the second was the choreography tool." So far, Siham Abdul Salam's presentation ends before analyzing the film to prove what she concluded.
And till now, we still enjoy watching, “Banu 3ala asloko Banu” the important film song, in which Jahine critizes the ruling layer portrayed in “Afandina” (The ruler’s Character) played by Gamil Rateb. The Egyptian viewer, in particular, and the Arab in general find it expressive of his envision of the corrupt rulers’ stereotype across ages.
And under the general atmosphere background for the situations, the critic wrote that the film didn’t introduce his 2 heroes in political emptiness, but on the contrary, it perfectly portrayed the situation atmosphere prior to the Suez Canal digging.
Badrakhan says about it: "I found that contemporary issues can be discussed through the old folkloric myth, such as the East-West relationship and the openness to the West that has happened in the past and is already happening now. The film also portrays the horrors met by the peasants who digged Suez Canal. The film explains what the peasants suffered due to their inability to defend themselves.”
This interpretation comes on the lips of a doctor who symbolizes the educated class, as he says to Metwally: "The human being has value, but he needs to defend it and he must not be bought or sold." The critic focused on the symbolic interpretation of signs found in the film such as fire and candles, the locations’ choice, such as mating in the barn among the animals, symbolizing how animalistic, filthy and low this relationship is. Badrakhan made a popular epic of an excellent choreographed film ... He perfectly used choreography & songs - not for free entertainment, but it fitted in place and played roles in the drama structure and situations’ sequences.
Siham Abdel Salam cinema world 2007
"I control the viewer, point him to of what he sees, as if I take his hand and tell him: come see with me." Ali Badrakhan
"The People of the Summit"
With this film, which takes place in the same year of its production without any past flash backs, Ali Badrakhan became - despite his young age - one of the leading Egyptian filmmakers. His realistic and simple style features the details that portray the story. We are aware of the nature of the market in the light of openness’ policies, when Zaghloul asks Zaatar to steal a check he gave to another trader, and when Zaghloul puts plans to evade customs in the free zone in Port Said, we recognize the role of "important men" in protecting smugglers.
the censorship cut this scene from the film copies.
“The great success of the "The People of the Summit " film, confirms that the Egyptian cinema audience – as every other audience - needs realistic cinema too, but when he finds it.”, Ali Badrakhan.
Samir Farid: The Cinema Club Bulletin 20/7/1981
"The People of the Summit", succeeded commercially and critically. Ali Badrakhan set foot with the new Egyptian realism group (Atef El Tayeb, Mohamed Khan, Khairy Bishara, Rafat El Mehyi) and fused with them. Then, the realism cinema will take an epic form in Badrakhan’s film "The Hunger", as in earlier Shafiqa and Metwally", before returning to his passion for uncovering the depths of the human soul. Ali Badrakhan, the understanding learner, then, returned to the of relationship nature between his tragic male hero and his beautiful women in "The Shepherd and The Women".
"The Hunger" 1986
As in “Shafeeqa and Metwally, Badrakhan went back in time to the late 19th century in 1888 - as documented in his film titles - and succeeded in tracing the hunger roots - sticking to our ancestors from immemorial time - as when the fortune teller foretells famine, the secret stores are filled with grains, goods disappeared from markets dramatically, along with the prices hysterically going high of inflation - the banner of justice raised by the great grandfather, Fadl al-Jabali, falls down and the bully steps on the necks of poor people and ignores the advice of his good brother, Jabir al-Jabali (played by Abdel Aziz Makhyon) – with whom Zubaydah, Soad Hosni - finds refuge and shelter until he marries her, in order to cover her pregnancy scandal from Mahrous and when She puts her baby, she names him Fadl after their great grandfather.
Faryal Kamel chose to focus on the role of Souad Hosni and her article title was "The moon twin that charmingly radiates even after her departure" and stated that Badrakhan’s “Hunger" - based on “Haravish” epic novel by Naguib Mahfouz, formulated in screenplay by co-scriptwriters Mustafa Muharram and Tariq al-Mirghani with Badrakhan - was keen to portray the female characters in the film based on women status awareness, reflecting their social and of economic conditions.
In "The Hunger," Badrakhan retained the names of the characters, as Mahfouz - the master of Drama character names summarizing their most important characteristics – wrote them. Badrakhan also worked with Muharram and Marghani in constructing a drama that extends the idea to the beginning of the conflict between good and evil - where “Fadl” symbolizes for “Adam” and his two sons: the good & the evil “Abel and Kane” in an ally location set built by Salah Maree - shot in subsequent films with slight modifications – that went famous even more than “Al-Azima” film’s popular ally - reflecting the ongoing struggle in Egypt this time, between corrupt and instinctive exploiters from a side and self-satisfied poor people on the other side, but they are able to assemble and defend their dignity and rights – exactly the same as the film director believes in real life out the of screen - expressing endless hope in his film no matter how long evil prevails – summarizing it in the final scene of the poor assembly holding sticks declaring the release of Jaber from capture, while Zubaida is looking to her son with eyes full of hope.
"The script is the most important stage of a movie. In a feature film, it takes nine months starting with the idea, then working on the treatment and developing it, then writing an initial version of the script, then developing it."
"I have a lot of projects on hold, and the reason is that I think of films that satisfy my artistic ego, and always collide with many obstacles, the major issues need large supporters, unlike normal films, there must be parties convinced that this film has great value and deserves support ... Arabs spend lavishly money on many luxuries & accessories, but when we talk about a serious issue, no one cares - including my project on Mohamed Naguib, the first president of Egypt after the revolution of July 52. It should have been produced by the cinema Device, and we started its preparations several years ago, but it stopped, and I hope to complete it to present the reality of Mohammed Naguib's role in July revolution.”
About The film critic qualifications, Badrakhan says: "to be a student of film criticism", a cinema art student, a cinema historian, a cinema craftsmanship student, and a student of all branches of film art. "
"When I criticize political and social situations through my films, I do this with the aim of building, not demolishing, and I sincerely believe that cinematographer cannot be a good artist if he is not committed to his national causes and his people’s suffering."
"I have moved away from the filmmaking for several reasons, the most important of which is that the current market conditions do not suit me, and I cannot work except on my terms and according to the standards I have been working since I started my film career, where I dealt with the best D.O.P.s and the best editors. Also, the producers reject the films I give them, because they see it inappropriate for the current situation. "
"The state is responsible for the production of large non-profit production films, such as historical films and films that document October War and laws must be issued to protect the industry and support filmmakers."
"I teach filmmaking workshop at the Cinema Institute and I instruct my students to do exercises they execute in the way they choose. It is important for the student to practice by himself ... The institute has many experts but it has to be organized in a general system so the +-professors’ efforts don’t go in vein and there has to be an integration between what each professor teaches in different departments. "
Badrakhan is currently involved in the teaching of cinema at a private institution “Caliber Academy”, free of rules imposed on professors of the Higher Institute of Cinema at the Academy of Arts - affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. He teaches filmmaking through film industry workshops – that started in 2015 and continues with titles chosen by Badrakhan - according to his vision and what he sees fit for market needs. At the end of each workshop, all graduation projects are shown to a committee of Cinematic Professions Syndicate members and directors of artistically approved films are granted Syndicate associate membership.
- Film director, producer and professor at the department of directing at the Higher Institute of Cinema.
- Born April 25, 1946 in Cairo, the only son of Ahmad Badrakhan (Kurdish origin), and of the actress Salwa Allam and has one sister, Mrs. Rukaya.
He got married 3 times, the first was to Diva “Souad Hosni” and they didn’t have kids. His second from his cousin, Mrs. Hala Salah Mustafa, mother of sons: Ahmed, Mutasim Bilallah and Badrakhan. He then married his student Sally Al-Rashidi and gave birth to a child “Judy” named after a Kurdish mountain.
The Desire (2002) - Director
Nazwa (1996) - Director
The Third Man (1995) - Director
The Shepherd and The Women (1991) - Director and author
The Hunger (1986) - Director
The people of the summit (1981) - Director
Shafika and Metwally (1978) - Director
Chayelni and Ashayelak (1977) - Director
The Karnak (1975) - Director
The Love that was - (1974) Director
The Bird (1974) - Assistant Director
Nadia (1969) - Assistant Director
The Land of Hypocrisy (1968) - Assistant Director
The Other Half (1967) - Assistant Director
Awards and honors
- The film "The Love That Was" was awarded to the Egyptian Film Critics Association (EFCA) as the best film screened in Egypt in 1973.
- For the film "Karnak" 1975, he received several awards, including the first prize for directing from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture and a special award in directing as the best film of the film association.
- The film "Shafiqa and Metwally" 1978 won several awards, including the State Award as the best film, the Bronze Tanat Award at the Carthage International Festival in Tunisia, and the prizes of the Egyptian Film Critics Association and the film association.
- "The People of the Summit" 1981 received several awards, including the State Award as the best film and the prize of the Egyptian Film Critics Association and the film association.
- Awarded the best film and best director from the Alexandria International Film Festival, Best Director of the National Film Festival 1992, prizes of the Film Society and the Egyptian Film Society.
- 2004 State Award for Excellence in Arts from the Supreme Council of Egyptian Culture.
- 2017 Merit Award by the Supreme Council of Culture at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
- "The Director of the Transitions Time" by the critic Samir Farid - Released in honor of Badrakhan at the National Festival of Egyptian Cinema in 2006.
- A study on Ali Badrakhan published by the critics of "The World of Cinema" 2007 titled “Angry Ali Badrakhan”, Interviewed by Siham Abdul Salam and Safa Al-Leithi and articles on the most important films.
- A brief study written by Mona Al-Mogy in Masrawy website.
- Fayza Hindawi Interview with him from Tahrir site.