Egyptian director flown to Paris

LONDON — Legendary Egyptian helmer Youssef Chahine is reportedly in a coma after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

The 82-year-old is said to have been flown to Paris for emergency treatment, according to the official Egyptian news agency. He had been ill for some time and had to share directing duties on his last film “Chaos” with co-helmer and scribe Khaled Youssef after the physical demands of the shoot began to take its toll.

Pic, a sprawling melodramatic take on everything from police corruption, torture and rape in Cairo, was one of Chahine’s biggest hits and topped the Egyptian box office when released late last year.

Chahine, by some margin the Arab world’s most famous director, has enjoyed an illustrious career spanning more than half a century. He came of age during Egyptian cinema’s golden age in the 1950s and 1960s when the country’s film industry, dubbed Hollywood on the Nile, lagged behind only Hollywood and Bollywood in terms of film production.

“Cairo Station,” Chahine’s 1958 adaptation of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s novel, is arguably the great director’s masterpiece, although other works such as “Al-asfur” (“The Sparrow”), “Al-ard” (“The Land”) and “Al-siraa fil wadi” (“Struggle in the Valley”), in which Chahine gave Omar Sharif his first role, are all deemed classics of Arab cinema.

Chahine, who studied acting in the U.S. during the 1940s, retained a long-held love affair with America, even devoting the final part of his “Alexandria” trilogy to his time spent in New York with the 2004 feature “Alexandria…New York.”

In his later years, Chahine become increasingly critical of American foreign policy in the Middle East and also a vocal opponent to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. His 1997 feature “Al-massir” (“Destiny”) presciently foretold the dangers of religious extremism. That same year he was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival.

“Chaos” was selected in competition in last year’s Venice Film Festival and Chahine personally attended the film’s preem, despite his ailing health.

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