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Nasser film strikes chord with the people of Egypt

October 24, 1996
Web posted at: 6:30 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT)

From Cairo Bureau Chief Gayle Young

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Forty years after Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized Egypt's Suez Canal, Egyptians are reliving the historic event through a new movie, "Nasser 56," which has taken Egypt by storm.

The black-and-white film depicts the tumultuous period of 1956 when the controversial leader stunned the world by seizing the canal from its European owners, and declared it Egyptian property. (49 sec. /2M QuickTime movie)movie icon


The movie uses actual newsreel footage to illustrate the ensuing battle that pitted Egypt against Israel, Britain and France. The superpowers suppressed the crisis, and Egypt gained permanent control of the canal.

Its director says "Nasser 56" has struck a special chord among Egypt's disenchanted youth.

"The Egyptian youth are in search of a feeling of superiority and invincibility. The events surrounding the canal represent, for the youth, true heroism," said director Mohamed Fadel.

Egyptians of all ages have embraced the movie, which delivers memories of a time when Egypt was defiant and powerful. Today, the country is beset by high unemployment and the lingering malaise of widespread poverty. The movie has broken every Egyptian box-office record.


Nasser is portrayed by actor Ahmed Zaki, widely regarded as one of Egypt's sexiest leading men.

Nasser has long been a hero in the Arab world. However, over the years many of his policies have been discredited, and his reputation tarnished. There are those who criticize his sympathetic portrayal in this film. "It shows him being kind and loving when we have read otherwise," scoffed one moviegoer.

Despite such criticisms, "Nasser 56" has been such a hit that directors are planning to churn out more movies depicting famous Egyptians and historical events. For theatergoers, it is a chance to slip back into time, when good and evil, triumph and adversity, were black and white.


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