Sadat pic in pipeline

Egyptian bestseller readied for bigscreen

CAIRO — It looks like a certain box office winner.

In pre-production is an Arabic-lingo film about the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Producer-director Moumir Radir is basing the as-yet-untitled movie on the bestselling book “The Assassination of a President” by Egyptian journalist Adel Hammouda, who was an eyewitness to the killing.

Radi announced that the film will focus mainly on the personalities, living conditions and trial of the four assassins who were led by a disgruntled young army officer, Khaled Islambouli, who had links to Islamist militants. Islambouli is reported to have shouted “Death to all dictators!” as he opened fire. The four were subsequently sentenced to death and executed.

Actress Morvat Amin has been tapped to play the role of Sadat’s wife, Jihan, and four unknown actors have been cast in the roles of the killers. Radi has refused to disclose who will play Sadat, saying coyly, “The choice will be a big surprise.” Scripter Bashir el Deek is writing the screenplay.

While most of the pic will be filmed in studios, the key assassination scenes are planned to be shot on the parade ground where the assassination took place — and where Sadat’s tomb is located.

The film apparently will take an Egyptian — and hence highly critical — view of Sadat rather than that of the world at large, where he was seen as an almost saintly man of peace.

If the West’s view of Sadat bordered on the worshipful when he made peace with Israel, it was in part because of his astute ability to charm the Western news media and world political leaders.

Different local take

But his image is different at home, where he was widely seen as a dictator presiding over a regime rife with corruption and with scant regard for human rights or the rule of law. An example of this was Sadat’s arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial of several hundred journalists, intellectuals and opposition political leaders just weeks before he was murdered.

If the film has a message, Radi said, “It is that in the absences of freedom and democracy, bullets are the only alternative. In short, the film will be a warning to dictators everywhere.”

That such a film should have enormous box office potential was demonstrated by another movie taken from Egypt’s recent history: “Nasser 56.” It was about the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser at the time of the Suez War of 1956. That film, which was released last summer, played for months in cinemas in Egypt and other Middle East countries, and is believed to be the highest-grossing Arabic film ever.

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