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February 08 2013

This week in 1919: The birth of Egypt’s Hitchcock

One of Egypt’s pioneering filmmakers, Kamal El Sheikh, was born on 5 February 94 years ago.

Sheikh is known as the “Egyptian Hitchcock,” after British film director Alfred Hitchcock, because of the similarities between the two filmmakers’ styles.

Sheikh, who died in 2004, directed 35 films. His first movie was “House No. 13” (Al-Manzel Raqam 13) in 1952 and his last was “The Time Conqueror” (Kaher al-Zaman) in 1987.

Unlike Hitchcock, whose first few films were not that successful, Sheikh’s “House No. 13” garnered both commercial success and critical acclaim.

The film’s plot was quite complex compared to mainstream cinema at that time, which tended to rely on simplistic romantic themes and songs. In the experimental thriller, a psychiatrist hypnotizes one of his patients to kill people.

But Sheikh’s directorial and intellectual style crystallized more in his third film, “Life or Death,” (Hayat Aw Mout), produced in 1955. Critics consider “Life or Death” one of the greatest Egyptian films ever made. It is one of the few films made during that era with Cairo as its main focus. (Egypt independent)


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