During the Second and Third Crusades, Saladin beat the Franks in battle partly because he was helped by an Arab Christian named Issan. Thus he was able to reconquer Jerusalem and take many prisoners, including Guy de Lusignan, a Christian King.
This big budget production, promoted by Assia, a well-known female producer, enabled Chahine to offer an Arab perspective on the history of the Crusades such as presented by Hollywood and Cinecittà. In order to obtain Egyptian army’s logistical support and also administrative clearances, Chahine cunningly persuaded Nasser, the charismatic ruler of Egypt, that the film was being made as a tribute to him. The result is an epic work, showing Saladin at the height of his victories during the Second and Third Crusades, in which Chahine achieves brilliantly striking setups that avoid the need to show onscreen violence. “Before the shoot, the Coptic community was afraid that this film might provoke tension between Christians and Muslims. The latter feared that the film would not show them in a sufficiently glorious light. I told each that I would do my best, really just to relax things, although the truth is that the film offers as accurate a depiction as possible of what actually happened”, Chahine was to explain years later. “Nasser showed it to every president who came to see him. I do not believe, however, that this film should be seen as a tribute to Nasser, as people have called it”, he added. Saladin’s military and strategic victories against the Franks are used here as an opportunity not to glorify Saladin but as a backdrop to the story of the love affair between Issan and Louise de Lusignan, one of the sultan’s prisoners.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: Naguib Mahfouz, Youssef El-Sebaï. Scen.: Youssef Chahine, Abderrahmane Cherkaoui, Azzedine Zulficar. F.: Wadid Serry. M.: Rachida Abdel Salam. Scgf.: Habib Khoury, Robert Charfenberg, Antoine Polizois. Mus.: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. Int.: Ahmed Mazhar (Saladino), Salah Zulfikar (Issan Alauwam), Nadia Lofti (Louise de Lusignan), Leila Faouzi (Virginia, principessa di Kerak), Mahmoud El-Meligui (Corrado del Monferrato), Tawfik El Deken (principe di Akka), Omar El-Hariri (Filippo II di Francia), Hemdi Geiss (Riccardo I Cuor di Leone). Prod.: Assia Dagher per Les Films Assia, Lotus Films, Organizzazione Generale del Cinema Egiziano. DCP. D.: 186’. Col.
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