No Arab director can match Youssef Chahine’s cinematic accomplishments. Chahine now ranks amongst the world’s top cinema figures, and expresses the ambitions of a whole generation of Arab directors, through distinguished films that have constantly monitored the individual and public aspects of life and crucial issues in this part of the world.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1926, Chahine has directed some 40 films reflecting social change, even when painting self-portraits on his own life. Also worth noting is how, having started working when he only 26, he staunchly maintained his independence and his intellectual and artistic principles, refusing to relinquish them at any cost. For many, he is the symbol of an ambitious Arab cinema, for generation after generation. Chahine’s movies have distinct traits> They have seamlessly blended public and individual issues and always featured a fine thread dealing with the psyche of his characters, ever since his early works such as Son of the Nile, Struggle in the Valley, Dark Waters and Cairo Station. Chahine always attempted to ass substances to love affairs, in which we see that woman or male models.
On the other hand, Chahine’s choice of political movies was never opportunistic, starting with Djamila, Saladin, Those people of the Nile, and The Sixth Day. This trend was crucial for The Land, which, although it avoided Arab relations with the West, dealt with Egyptian national identity and Chahine own left-of-centre political stance. Until The Sparrow and The Choice, Chahine looked like a historian trying to record the vents of two different episodes, before going back to the fringes of the ongoing face-off, aiming at establishing an Arab identity and perusing its relationship with the West, in movies such as Adieu Bonaparte, Destiny and Alexandria...New York.
Chahine’s movies always projected a world of vibrant life on the screen, reflecting an eventful personal life that enriched his cinematic experience and made him a symbol for Arab cinema on local and international stages.
Im kwon-taek was born in 1936 and grew up in the Southern Korean city of Kweangju. During the country’s long political upheavals, he was forced to work in Pusan, and only returned to Seoul in 1956 to work as a production assistant. His debut film, Farewell to Tuman River, followed in 1962, beginning an extraordinary career in an industry that was little known to the outside world.
Between his debut and Weeds (1972), Im made 50 movies, experimenting with melodrama, teen romance, comedy and historical drama, working from the only templates that were available in Korea at the time: Hong Kong action pictures and Hollywood B-movies. His historical dramas are filled with women who sacrifice themselves for their sons or husbands, within male-dominated societies. Between 1968 and 1971, he produced 25 “National Policy” films for the government of the day, devoid of any political sensitives or social issues.
Im was finally recognized internationally in 1981 when his seventy-fifth film, Mandara, participated at the Berlin International Film Festival. Mandara began Im's fascination with deeply rooted Korean mores, such as Buddhism, Shamanism, Confucianism, Donghak and Existentialism. He was searching for Korean soul, and his films in 1980s and 1990s reflected this search, along with new styles of shooting and points of view.
A breakthrough film in his sixtieth year was Sopjonge (1993), a surprise box office hit in Sout Korea and winner of numerous international awards. Taeback Mountain (1994) and Festival (1996) were both seen as tributes to his parents, the cry of the dutiful son forgiving the past. Chunhyanf (2002), which competed at Cannes, echoed a lifelong preoccupation- the life of an artist- and was his own answer to Sopjonge. In 2002, he and Paul Thomas the great artist, Jang Seoung-up. DIFF is proud to screen Chihwaseon and Chun-nyun-hack (Beyond the Years,2007), the Hundredth film from this astonishingly prolific artist, who has experiment with countless genres and styles, while steadfastly maintaining his classic form and intuitive sense of political history, Im has found his path through the labyrinth of Korean Politics, always adopting his own stance and voice.
Danny Glover was born in 1947 in San Francisco and studied economics at San Francisco University. After working for a few years in Community Development he studied at the Black Actors Workshop of the American Conservatory and began his professional career on stage, first gaining public and critical attention for his performance in the New York production of Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys. He made his (uncredited) film debut in Escape to Alcatraz (1979), but it was Places in the Heart (1984), Witness (1985) and The Color Purple (1985) that finally set him upon a successful and extraordinary prolific career.
Glover bestrides Hollywood and independent filmmaking and television with remarkable grace and fluency. Add to that his dedication to the cause of African-Americans and Africa and we find his playing Oscar Micheaux, the African-American film pioneer; narrating The Untold West: the Black West and a documentary on blues hero Robert Johnson; playing Nelson Mandela in an HBO film. He made is producing debut with Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger (Showing in DIFF), in which he also starred.
With Joslyn Barnes he has formed Louverture Films (names after Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian black revolution), to produce films of historical, social and political importance. Its first production was Abderrahmane Sissako’s Bamako (which screened at DIFF last year), followed by Africa Unite, celebrating bob Marley and his vision of African unity, and Salt of This Sea, by Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir. Glover will make his feature directing debut with the Louverture Films’ biopic Toussaint, funded by the Venezuelan government.
Glover is a UNICEF Goodwilll Ambassador, recipient of an Amnesty International Lifetime Achievement Award and Chair of the TransAfrica Forum, through which he protested against the US militarization of Africa. He has publicly urged South Africa to pay more attention to its Aids epidemic and protested against the slaughter in Sudan and the US invasion of Iraq. It’s difficult to see where Glover finds any spare time, but if he doesn’t then his tirelessness is to our advantage. His outstanding acting, dedication to films that confront contemporary issues and his deep humanitarian impulses are a gift to us all-one which DIFF most happily salutes.