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World Cinema Series: Al Momia / The Night of Counting of the Years

What One of the greatest Egyptian films ever made.
When 14 September 2010 (Tuesday), 7.30pm
Where National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897

Free admission but members only -- flash your membership card to go in. You may bring up to 2 guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Non-members may sign up online or at the door -- we will issue membership on the spot. No tickets will be sold. Free seating.


Al Momia / The Night of Counting of the Years
Director: Shadi Abdel Salam
1969 | Egypt | 103 min | 35mm | Rating to be Advised
In Arabic with English subtitles


Al Momia, rightfully acknowledged as one of the greatest Egyptian films
ever made, is based on a true story. In this film, archaeologists from the
Antiquities Department in Cairo noticed that several artefacts bearing
royal names from the 21st dynasty kept appearing on the antique black
market. An expedition was sent to Thebes, the capital of the Pharaonic
Empire, to ascertain the cause, where the Pharaoh’s tomb was discovered to
have been plundered for millennia by the Horabat mountain tribe. Their
ancient way of life becomes disrupted when the two sons of the tribal
chieftain refuse to perpetuate the plundering further,


Al Momia has an unusual tone ­ stately, poetic, with a powerful grasp of
time and the sadness that carries. The ceremonial movement of the camera,
the desolate settings, the unsettling score by the great Italian composer
Mario Nascimbene all work in perfect harmony to contribute to the feeling
of fateful inevitability. The picture has a sense of history like no
other, so it came as no surprise that Roberto Rossellini readily agreed to
produce the film after reading the script.


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 and the digital
restoration produced a new 35mm internegative. The film was restored in
2009 by the World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna / L’Immagine
Ritrovata Laboratory, with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of


Tickets for Al Momia will be on sale from 1 July 2010.


About the Director Shadi Abdel Salam (1930 ­ 1986)


“I think that the people of my country are ignorant of our history and I
feel that it is my mission to make them know some of it and let others go
on with the rest. I regard cinema not as a consumerist art, but as a
historical document for next generations.” ­ Shadi Abdel Salam


Shadi Abdel Salam, who directed only one full-length feature film has
become firmly established as one of the most important Egyptian directors
of his time.


Born on 15 March 1930 in Alexandria to a family that originally came from
Upper Egypt, he received his education at Victoria College where he
fostered his love for drama. After graduating from Victoria College, he
travelled to Paris, London and Rome to study drama but returned to Egypt
without achieving his goal. On his return, he joined the Architecture
Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Cairo University, where he
graduated in 1954. After graduation, he returned to England once more to
study drama in 1956, to fulfil his original dream.


Abdel Salam started his career in cinema as an assistant director to Salah
Abou Seif. In their first film, The Thug (el Futuwwa), he was more of a
spectator, jotting down the duration of each shot. He later became the
assistant director to Henri Barakat and Helmi Halim, and it was during the
latter’s A Love Story (Qessat houbb) that his talent in set design was
discovered unexpectedly. Many filmmakers were impressed with his décor for
A Love Story, and he subsequently received many designing offers. In fact,
he is still considered as one of the most extraordinary Egyptian set- and
costume-designers in the film industry. In 1967, he designed the set and
costumes of the documentary film Mankind’s Fight for Survival by Roberto
Rossellini. The influence of this great Italian director surpassed that of
any directors he knew and worked with, and after the completion of the
documentary film, he decided to become a director himself.


Thus, in 1969, Abdel Salam started directing his first and only
full-length feature, Al Momia, also known as The Night of Counting of the
Years. The visual impact of the film was his expression of the very
essence of things, which he sought through image, architecture, light and
colour, rather than dramatic action, literary narration or linguistic
dialogues. His choice of classical Arabic also contributed to the
monumental influence of the film, which stands out as a great epic peopled
with larger-than-life characters.


His next ambitious project was The Tragedy of the Great House which was
never completed in spite of twelve years of intensive preparation and
research. Abdel Salam died of cancer at the age of 56, on 8 October 1986,
in Cairo.