Considered by many to be the most important Egyptian film ever made, Shadi Abdel Salam’s masterpiece Al-Mumiaa, also known as The Night of Counting the Years (1969), will be screened during the International Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR).
The version which will be screened was restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project in 2009.
The restoration of Al-Mumiaa (which translates to ‘the mummy’) used the original 35 millimetre camera and sound negatives preserved at the Egyptian Film Centre in Giza. The digital restoration produced a new 35 millimetre internegative. The film was restored by the World Cinema Project with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. The restoration was carried out by Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory and completed in May 2009.
Al-Mumiaa exhibits so-called clashes between traditions and modernity, between family bonds and the morals of the modern state. The film was produced by the Egyptian state’s Egyptian General Organisation for Cinema and Television and cost around EGP 91,000. Over 50% of the whole budget was spent on studio work (development, dubbing, and soundtrack). The musical score was composed by Mario Nascimbeni in his sound studio in Rome and the final magnetic reels were transferred to an optical sound on Agfa-Gaevart negative stock.
Abdel Salam worked intensely to create costumes that were as historically accurate as possible, allowing each film to portray the lifestyle and image of what ancient Egypt would have been like. Each costume for every actor on set would be detailed in an intricate and often beautiful sketch; watercolours and accurate depictions of the actors’ features would allow stitching and preparation of materials to be precise.