DIFF Daily 2011


Dec 07,2011 - 12:03 AM

By Bashar Ibrahim

The 85-year-old veteran artist Gamil Ratib is considered one of the pioneers of Arab cinema. Since the 1950s he has carved his own path to international stardom, including a role as Majid in the David Lean classic ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962).

He travelled to France in 1944 to study Diplomacy, which he abandoned in order to study theatre, much to his family’s chagrin. He started out as an actor in small roles in film and theatre, but found early success once he joined the ‘Comédie-Française’ in 1949, and continued to perform in several local and international stage productions. Subsequently, he returned to Egypt, as part of a play staged at the old Opera House.

His return presented an opportunity for reconciliation between Ratib and his family as well as with the world of Egyptian cinema. Ratib appeared regularly in Egyptian films as well as continuing his stage-work in the West. After his return to Egypt, he worked in film, theatre and also as an assistant director in American and French cinema. His work on ‘The Visit’ (1964), starring Anthony Quinn, led to a solid friendship between the two.

Despite donning prominent roles on stage, including ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Othello’, he never attempted to secure a role in Western films, because this ‘would require compromises on the part of the artist’ he is reported to have said. In 1956 Gamil Ratib made his first appearance in the American film ‘Trapeze’, after which he appeared in numerous Western movies. He returned to Egypt in the 1970s and settled down, as Egyptian cinema and TV both beckoned. He rapidly became one of Egypt’s A-list stars.

Through the 1970s, Gamil Ratib starred in several Egyptian films including ‘Adieu Bonaparte’, ‘El-Soud ela al-Hawia’, ‘The Beginning’, ‘Chafika et Metwali’, ‘Al-Darga Al-Thalitha’, ‘The Liar’, ‘A Girl Like No Other’ and ‘The Aquarium’.

Gamil Ratib is best known for blending Arab and Western civilisations. He distinguished himself through his unique approach to acting and getting under the skin of his characters – a trait that made him stand out in Egyptian cinema. His roles have varied from playing heroes to villains and his ability to shift from one role to another allowed him to work in Arab cinema originating from Tunisia and Morocco.

Gamil Ratib is considered as one of the most determined actors of his generation. He has worked with successive generations of Arab and Western filmmakers, as demonstrated through his films screened at the 8th Dubai International Film Festival.
Bashar Ibrahim is the editor-in-chief of the DIFF Daily – Arabic.

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