Nasser 56

A fascinating presentation of a key moment in world affairs, Mohamed Fadel's 1996 historical epic revisits the Suez Canal crisis, when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the key shipping route controlled by the British and French. Fadel combines black-and-white dramatic sequences with 1956 newsreel footage to give the feel of a historical document and tries to enliven long talky scenes with complex camera movements; the results are by turns gripping and inept, the choppy rhythms curious but probably not intentional. Ahmad Zaki gives a powerful portrayal of Nasser as a modest family man, though the brief scenes of him and his children are so undeveloped that they recall past propaganda attempting to humanize world leaders. The film set box office records in Egypt, and its Arab perspective provides a welcome historical corrective (I hadn't known that thousands of Egyptians died during the canal's construction). But in some cases Fadel's patriotism obscures the facts: Egypt didn't build the Aswan High Dam alone but with aid from the Soviet Union. 142 min.

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