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The Night of Counting the Years
Directed byShadi Abdel Salam
Written byShadi Abdel Salam
Produced byRoberto Rossellini
StarringAhmed Marei
Ahmad Hegazi
Zouzou Hamdy El-Hakim
Nadia Lutfi
CinematographyAbdel Aziz Fahmy
Edited byKamal Abou-El-Ella
Music byMario Nascimbene
General Egyptian Cinema Organisation
Merchant Ivory Productions
Distributed byGeneral Egyptian Cinema Organisation
Merchant Ivory Productions
Release date
1969 (Egypt)
Running time
102 minutes
LanguageClassical Arabic

The Night of Counting the Years, also released in Arabic as The Mummy (Arabic: Al-Mummia المومياء), is a 1969 Egyptian film and the only feature film directed by Shadi Abdel Salam.[1] The film was selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 43rd Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee. It is the 3rd on the list of Top 100 Egyptian films. [2][3]

It remains one of the best examples of neo-realism in Egyptian cinema. Other notable examples include Youssef Chahine's Al Ard (The Earth, 1968) and Al Usfur(The Sparrow, 1972) as well as Tewfik Saleh’s The Dupes(Al Makhdu'un, 1973).

Produced by Roberto Rossellini, who was instrumental in encouraging Abdel Salam to make the film, The Night of the Changing Years tells a story set among the grave robbers of Kurna in Upper Egypt.[4]

"Shadi Abdel Salam's The Mummy was the forerunner of what was to become the hallmark of the new realism, namely, the preoccupation with the search for identity and the relationship between heritage and character."[5]

The relationship between contemporary and Ancient Egypt is dealt with allegorically in the film. The static images of landscape and the rigid expressions of the main characters reflect those of the statues and reliefs found in Ancient Egypt. The use of classical Arabic, not normally used in Egyptian cinema, reinforces the impression of monumentalism.[6]

The unrestrained sacking of the tombs is represented as a danger, threatening moral decline by inviting greed and sex to undermine the dignity of the tribe and its traditions, replacing the order of the world with chaos.

Shadi Abdel Salam has said that his task was to remind Egyptians of their own history: "I think that the people of my country are ignorant of our history and I feel that it is my mission to make them know some of it. I regard cinema not as a consumerist art, but as a historical document for the next generations."[7]

Although he went on to direct short fiction and documentaries, The Night of the Changing Years remains Abdel Salam's only full length feature film.


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Set in 1881, When Egypt was under the rule of the Ottoman Khedives, a year before the start of British colonial rule, it is based on the true story of the Abd el-Rasuls, an Upper-Egyptian clan that is stealing piecemeal a cache of mummies they have discovered at a tomb DB320 near the village of Kurna, and selling the artefacts on the black market.

The central character, Wannis, discovers that his life is built on a lie, that his family have been looting valuable treasures from the tombs buried in the mountain behind their village. Wannis struggles to reconcile his conscience with his loyalty to his people. After his brother is killed, Wannis decides to inform the archaeologists who have come from Cairo, led by French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, of what has been going on.



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Critical reception for The Night of Counting the Years has been very positive, with Egyptian critics consistently list it as one of the greatest Egyptian films ever made.[8] Aaron Cutler from Slant Magazine called it "both a classic film and a classic Arab film".[9] Time Out London praised the film, calling it "Slow-moving but absorbing, and quite beautifully shot."[10]

The film was not without its detractors. Richard Eder of The New York Times was critical of the film, writing, "Most of the movie, is done with stupefying grandiloquence. Wherever the camera touches, it sticks and won't let go. Landscape, brooding close-ups—and how they all do brood—interminable patterns of black-robed figures against the white sand: Every shot lingers and lingers. The acting is heavy and hieratic, fogged with a pretentious mysticism."[11]

See also



  1. ^ "The Night of Counting the Years". Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  2. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  3. ^ "Top 100 Egyptian Films (CIFF)". IMDb. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  4. ^ "The Greatest Clash in Egyptian Archaeology May be Fading, but Anger Lives on".
  5. ^ Nouri Bouzid: Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics No. 15, Arab Cinematics: Toward the New and the Alternative / ﺍﻟﺴﻴﻨﻤﺎﺋﻴﺔ العربية: نحو الجديد والبديل‎ (1995), pp. 242-250
  6. ^ Arab Cinema, History and Cultural Identity by Viola Shafik; Page 51: The American University in Cairo Press, 1998
  7. ^ "Shadi Abdel Salam, AlexCinema".
  8. ^ Farid, Samir (15–21 March 2007). "The top 100". Al-Ahram Weekly. Boulaq: Al-Ahram (836). OCLC 179957756. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  9. ^ Cutler, Aaron. "Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010: The Mummy (a.k.a. The Night of Counting the Years)". Slant Aaron Cutler. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  10. ^ "The Night of Counting the Years, directed by Shadi Abdelsalam". Time Time Out London. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  11. ^ Eder, Richard (23 October 1975). "Egypt's 'Night of Counting Years' – The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 December 2018.