1997 [ARABIC]

Comedy / Drama / History / Musical / Romance

IMDb Rating 7.2 10 2955

Plot summary

January 17, 2023 at 12:14 AM


Youssef Chahine

Top cast

1.22 GB
Arabic 2.0
24 fps
2 hr 15 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by guanche 10 / 10

A movie about the past, but highly topical as well as instructive about the present

This film is an entertaining and thrilling mix of melodrama, music, history, grief and joy, showing the best and worst sides of human nature.

The story is set in medieval Moorish Spain, and concerns the conflict between Averroes; a historical humanistic Muslim philosopher; and a group of reactionary fundamentalists. It is extremely well acted and the characters are sympathetic as well as credible. It is often forgotten that many of the Islamic societies of the Middle Ages (particularly in Spain) were way ahead of Europe in science, mathematics, medicine, religious tolerance and most intellectual pursuits. However, there were periodic and sometimes serious conflicts with those who resented these trends.

This is not just an historical epic. The Egyptian director, a very courageous man named Youssef Chanine, deliberately molded the script to show how fanaticism not only undermines a society's intellect, but destroys the very souls of its members. Particularly disturbing, but highly relevant to our times is his portrayal of the subtle manner in which young men are recruited into these movements and about how empty and dishonest they turn out to be.

Although the population of medieval Andalusia was 10-15% Jewish and Averroes had extensive contact with both Jewish and Christian intellectuals, there isn't a Jew in sight and the only Christians depicted are evil, fanatical, external enemies who enter into a secret pact with the fundamentalist cult. While this is not entirely accurate and a gross simplification of the actual situation at the time, I don't fault Mr. Chanine. He has endured extreme legal harassment in the Egyptian courts over this and another film as well as extensive death threats against himself and his family. Merely exploring the themes portrayed in this movie has put his head on the chopping block, and any sympathetic depiction of Jews or Christians would have resulted in the banning of the film and possibly his head rolling into the basket. He deliberately crafted this film to educate his own society about the moral corruption and debasement of violent fanatical behavior and no doubt wanted to make sure the message got out.

A bold, yet gently provocative film by a very brave man.

Reviewed by mramses 8 / 10

Al Massir, the Destiny of Ideas...

"The Ideas have Wings, you can never stop them from reaching the people".

That was Al Massir, or the Destiny of Youssef Chahine. After his previous movie "El Mohager", Chahine was taken to court by a fundamentalist lawyer who claimed that Chahine presented the prophet Joseph in this movie and this is something forbidden "To show prophets on the screen" by Al Azhar. The lawyer wanted the court to stop showing the movie on the Egyptian screens as well as its distribution outside Egypt.

Regardless of the final conclusion of the court, this case was the major motive behind the script of "Al Massir". Jo (Chahine) wanted to send a clear message to this people "You can never stop ideas from reaching the people, neither by burning the books (last scene of the movie), nor by forbidding movies, etc....' As usual, Averoes in this movie was Chahine himself. Trying to keep a good balance between what the history says about Averoes and what Chahine wanted to reflect on this character, he chose his characters to include all the contradictions he wanted to show. Politics, philosophy, love, integrism, etc.... they are everywhere. This idea of combining Islam with Terrorism bothers Chahine, that is why he started the movie with the french religious authorities burning a man who "Translated the books of this Averoes", so don't you be surprised when Muslims burn "Only" the books of Averoes. This analysis of Chahine is what really makes the movie special. It was expected after what happened to him in his last movie (as I said in the beginning), he could have just make it a good reason for a movie showing Muslims as Terrorists, an easy way to attract a Western spectator. But Jo chose the hard way to do it, showing that among all this terrorism, people are still "Life lovers" as mentioned by the first song. These people who just love their life were those fighting against terrorist - not with weapons - but with love. "We have to know first why they are doing this', said Averoes. Actors were really good specially Nour Elsherif, Mahmoud Hemeida, Khaled Elnabawi and Ahmed Fouad Selim. Mohamed Mounir is as usual the voice of Chahine singing "Sing out loud, we still can sing".

Reviewed by claude-18 10 / 10

Brave, exuberant filmmaking

Americans and Europeans should treat themselves to the courageous joy of this infectious film, if you can find it. If you're looking for Latcho Drom with a great story, this is it!

Destiny is singularly beautiful in that it celebrates humanist passions and ideas as they were once allowed to be expressed in the Islamic culture of 12th century Spain. The Egyptian director Youssef Chahine ventures this anti-fundamentalist statement in a contemporary cultural climate where fundamentalism is on the rise. It exposes the street fascism and subtle eroticism that seduces young men into such sects.

Destiny is exuberant. It has humor, music, dancing, free thinking dialogue, intriguing sets and architecture and, most of all, the ensemble portrayal of a joyful philosophic community whose members you can really grow to love. All the earthly things fundamentalists detest!

Chahine deserves a larger world audience, by virtue of his bravery and outspoken-ness. He argues at risk of his own life in this film. If Akira Kurosawa could be embraced so wholeheartedly by the international community, so should Chahine. This film is a landmark. I hope financing from our part of the world will find its way to him. He has guts and passion.

The film itself is like nothing else you will see made on these shores. It is emotionally unabashed. Our western ideals of coolness and hipness restrict many of our directors and actors. Passion is too often reserved for climactic moments, and commonly those moments are angry intimidation or vengeance scenes sparked by the Pacino clones of the world. Much of the actor's job is running and posing. In Destiny, the actors are not posing - they are joyfully uninhibited and alive!

Recommended highly!! Vigorous entertainment. Brave ideas. Exotic sets. Bold, hand-hewn directorial craftsmanship. Great true story. And your only chance to see 12th century Andalusian culture come alive!

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