Al-mummia [The Mummy] (1969) is the only full-length film by the Egyptian screenwriter, costume and set designer, and filmmaker Shadi Abdel Salam (1930-1986), which is also known by its alternative English title The Night of Counting the Years. Finding inspiration in a historical event that took place in 1881, on the eve of British colonial rule, when it was brought to light that a tribe had been secretly raiding the tombs of the Pharaohs in Thebes, the filmmaker rigorously crafted a haunting meditation on identity, loss and legacy. This small dossier brings together a selection of conversations with and writings on Abdel Salam, as well as the complete screenplay of Al-mummia and some of the drawings that he sketched in preparation for the film.

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Boris Lehman 1995
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“My films are like fables, and reality is their backdrop. They imitate the simple form of a diary, they are autobiographical, since they often deal with a quest for identity and a search for origins, and I often appear in them as a subject and as a character.”

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Film is (and this is my fundamental assumption) not art in the bourgeois-humanist sense of the word. It is an industry and a very important part of the so-called culture industry at that. Those who switch from the category of art to the category of culture industry ultimately make a political-ideological choice, the consequences of which can hardly be overrated.

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In Lovers Rock (2020), McQueens zelfverklaarde “musical” gebaseerd op zijn jeugdherinneringen aan Londense “blues parties”, neemt de roep van de vervoering de allure aan van een hymne. Wanneer, op de wulpse tonen van Janet Kays Silly Games, lichamen zich gracieus in beweging zetten en elkaar aftastend beroeren, vult de ruimte zich met een peilloze hunkering. Maar als de muziek zachtjes wegdeemstert en een woordeloos akkoord wordt gesloten om dat gevoel collectief verder te zetten, wordt het lied a cappella opnieuw ingezet: “I’ve been wanting you / For so long, it’s a shame / Oh, baby.”

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On 28 December 1895, 125 years ago today, the cinema came into existence with the first real public screening hosted by the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière in the basement of the Grand Café in Paris.

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On the last day of 2020, the French film historian and critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon has passed away at the age of 85.

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Largement autobiographique, Bruxelles-transit commence comme un film quasi documentaire, où les acteurs (ou actants) ne sont que des silhouettes placées dans le paysage noir et blanc (plus noir que blanc) de la gare, lieu ou non-lieu par excellence de l’origine du voyage et de l'exil, du transit ô combien symbolique ici de l'histoire des parents de Samy venus de Pologne avec un visa pour le Costa Rica. 

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Too often people think that when editing you have to start by working on the narrative and finding the film’s structure, and only then move on to its rhythm by refining the length of the shots and sequences. I find that impossible. That would be like separating content from form, thought from the perceptible. Rhythm is the heart of the film, its breath. It’s also the association of colors, shapes, and lines. 

From the Archive

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Verloren aan het einde van de wereld, in gezelschap van mijn brutale honden op mijn eiland Sal, herinner ik mij die januarimaand in Tokio, of ik herinner me eerder de beelden die ik heb gefilmd in die januarimaand in Tokio. Ze hebben nu de plaats ingenomen van mijn herinnering, ze zijn mijn herinnering. Ik vraag me af hoe mensen die niet filmen, niet fotograferen, geen video’s opnemen, zich herinneren. Hoe slaagde de mensheid er vroeger in zich te herinneren ...

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“Behind her eyes I saw something – a light. And that light reminded me of a child’s eyes. I thought, “She’s there and we know that she’s there looking out from behind her eyes.” Eyes talk to us in these ways. When it dawned on me that a second chance to record her was unlikely, I realized that for the most part this would be the way to have her appear in the film. I thought it would probably be the only way to make people feel that she’s there, she’s alive, she’s still alive.”

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125 years ago, on March 22nd, 1895, the first film in history was projected for a crowd of about ten people. During a special gathering in the Société d’Encouragement à l’Industrie Nationale, Louis Lumière projected his first film: Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine de Monplaisir. On the occasion of this 125th birthday, Sabzian is publishing a series of translated fragments from Histoire du cinématographe: de ses origines à nos jours (1925) by Georges-Michel Coissac, where, amongst other things, the author narrates the history of these marvellous first film screenings. “And we thought: Messrs. Lumière are great magicians.”