Once again popular leader Jamal Abd El-Nasser inspires mass unity in the Arab World, this time as the subject of one of Egypts most celebrated new films. In Egypt in 1956, the World Bank suddenly withdrew its offer to finance the Aswan High Dam, setting in motion what came to be known as the Suez Canal Crisis. One hundred days later, Nasser boldly decided to nationalize the project, defying the world superpowers and bringing his country to the brink of war. With this act, Nasser won yet another battle in the war against foreign rule and took another step toward creating an independent Egypt.
Filmed in black and white, this insightful docu-drama masterfully incorporates actual archival footage into its story, lending the film a sense of historical authenticity. In an outstanding performance, Egyptian star Ahmad Zaki elegantly brings to life one of the worlds most charismatic political figures and transports us back to the most dramatic year of his presidency.
In 1956, Egypt's president, General Gamal Abdel Nasser, made a incredibly bold move, defying the Western powers, by claiming the Suez Canal for Egypt. The canal had been in the hands of the British, who had signed a 100-year lease, yet Egypt gained almost nothing from the deal. In fact, over 120,000 Egyptian men (out of a population of only 4 million) died in the creation of the canal, and Egypt garnered a large debt. When the World Bank and Western powers refused to finance Nasser's high dam--the Aswan dam--Nasser decided the only way to gain the revenue was to nationalize the canal. Director Mohamed Fadel has re-created this tumultuous time in Egyptian history in his moving tale Nasser 56
. Ahmad Zaki stars as Nasser, and he portrays the man in subdued tones, making him accessible to a world audience.
This film is a docu-drama--not a true documentary--and as a result, it tends to be one-sided from a Western standpoint. Not all will agree with the pleasant portrait painted of Nasser--he was not nearly as benign as this film suggests. Also, the production values are a little rough around the edges--film markings slip through and the subtitles (the film is mostly in Arabic) are white, making them occasionally hard to read. Yet, these are minor problems, and overlooking these facts, the film is remarkably done. Fadel made a wise decision in choosing to film in black and white. He was thus able to seamlessly weave in archival footage of many of the key players and events. Although the outcome is a given--Fadel does not alter history--the film nonetheless manages to be suspenseful and exciting. Even with its slow pace, the look inside the affairs of the Middle East will be fascinating for anyone with even a remote interest in global politics. --Jenny Brown