Saturday 30 December 2017

Cinema Reborn - 2nd Selection - THE NIGHT OF COUNTING THE YEARS (Shadi Abdel Salam, Egypt, 1969)

The Night of Counting the Years is the second film to be announced for Sydney's newest film festival, Cinema Reborn, taking place at the AFTRS Theatre, Moore Park Entertainment Quarter, from 3-7 May 2018.  Details of the first film to be announced can be found if you click here. The complete program and details of subscription tickets will be released in February 2018.

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In 2013, the Dubai Film Festival published the results of a poll from 475 critics, writers, novelists and academics selecting the Best 100 Arab films of all time. At the top of the list, as the greatest Arab film ever made, was The Night of Counting the Years (Momia), the only feature directed by Shadi Abdel Salam and released in 1969.

Shadi Abdel Salam
After initial festival screenings, it all but disappeared with only a few 16mm prints in circulation.  It was restored in 2009 by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project at Cineteca di Bologna /L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with the Egyptian Film Center. No Blu-ray or DVD copies have been made from this restoration.

Martin Scorsese, the Chair of the World Cinema Project writes about The Night of Counting the Years:

Momia (The Night of Counting the Years), which is commonly and rightfully acknowledged as one of the greatest Egyptian films ever made, is based on a true story: in 1881, precious objects from the Tanite dynasty started turning up for sale, and it was discovered that the Horabat tribe had been secretly raiding the tombs of the Pharaohs in Thebes.

A rich theme, and an astonishing piece of cinema. The picture was extremely difficult to see from the 70s onward. I managed to screen a 16mm print which, like all the prints I’ve seen since, had gone magenta. Yet I still found it an entrancing and oddly moving experience, as did many others. I remember that Michael Powell was a great admirer. 

Momia has an extremely unusual tone – stately, poetic, with a powerful grasp of time and the sadness it carries. The carefully measured pace, the almost ceremonial movement of the camera, the desolate settings, the classical Arabic spoken on the soundtrack, the unsettling score by the great Italian composer Mario Nascimbene – they all work in perfect harmony and contribute to the feeling of fateful inevitability.

Past and present, desecration and veneration, the urge to conquer death and the acceptance that we, and all we know, will turn to dust… a seemingly massive theme that the director, Shadi Abdel Salam, somehow manages to address, even embody with his images. Are we obliged to plunder our heritage and everything our ancestors have held sacred in order to sustain ourselves for the present and the future? What exactly is our debt to the past?

The picture has a sense of history like no other, and it’s not at all surprising that Roberto Rossellini agreed to lend his name to the project after reading the script. And in the end, the film is strangely, even hauntingly consoling – the eternal burial, the final understanding of who and what we are… I am very excited that Shadi Abdel Salam’s masterpiece has been restored to original splendor.

–Martin Scorsese, May 2009

The restoration of Al Momia used the original 35mm camera and sound negatives preserved at the Egyptian Film Center in Giza. The digital restoration produced a new 35mm inter-negative. 

CONTACT US: If you would like to receive advice about film selections, schedules and other news relating to Cinema Reborn (3-7 May, 2018) send an email to  or check in at the Cinema Reborn website 

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