Le Destin - Yousseff Chahine (Al Massir)
Director: Youssef Chahine
Release Date:15 October 1997 (France)
" Had Cecil B. DeMille larded musical comedy numbers into one of his quasi-religious epics, the movie might well have resembled "Destiny," the Egyptian film maker Youssef Chahine's rip-roaring entertainment about the struggle for survival of free speech, literacy and rationalism in 12th-century Spain.
The hero of this bluntly pointed allegory, tricked out with some wildly impassioned Gypsy songs and dances, is the great Spanish-Arabian philosopher Averroes (Nour el-Cherif), who shocked his contemporaries by insisting that reason and faith need not be incompatible. Averroes's philosophy drew intense fire from both Christian and Muslim zealots. And "Destiny" turns his struggle against fanatic oppressors into a hotblooded romantic adventure.
"Destiny" opens with a bang in France as one of the philosopher's heroic disciples is tied to the end of a horse and dragged through the streets of Languedoc, then gruesomely burned at the stake. Moments before he shrivels into a cinder, the martyr instructs his son Joseph to find Averroes, and the boy rushes off to Andalusia, where the rest of the movie unfolds.
The region is ruled by a politically savvy caliph (Mahmoud Hemeida), who is displeased with his handsome rebel sons, Nasser and Abdallah. Nasser, the older son, is a cool-headed follower of Averroes, while Abdallah, who has impregnated a poor Gypsy servant, is a confused, wild-spirited youth who scandalizes the family by dancing in public with commoners. The boy undergoes a radical change after being seduced into joining a fanatical Islamic sect that takes him into the desert and brainwashes him into becoming a sloganeering fundamentalist crank.
The caliph meanwhile must secure his rule against the schemes of a wealthy sheik who has cannily aligned himself with the fundamentalist movement. When the caliph's close friendship with Averroes proves politically inconvenient, he dumps him, and the philosopher finds his life in peril.
The conflicts culminate in a spectacular book-burning. And set in the 12th century, more than 200 years before Gutenberg invented movable type, "Destiny" expresses a deeper reverence for books than perhaps any film since Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451." Beneath all the glitz and fancy swashbuckling, "Destiny" insinuates a message. The movie isn't so much a reappraisal of religious strife eight centuries ago as it is a warning against the dangers of fundamentalist intolerance now. "
From New York Times
Audio : French - Arabic
Subtitles : French - English