Feb 04 • 4 mins read
Story in Project “Syrian Movies before the War”

The Leopard / الفهد

The first movie which I would like to start this project with is Al-Fahd ("The Leopard") by Nabil Maleh, released in 1972. It won the Locarno International Film Festival's Special Leopard Prize and was declared as one of the "immortal masterpieces of Asian cinema" in 2005 by South Korea's Pusan International Film Festival.

 

About the author

The movie is based on the novel "the leopard" by Hayder Hayder, which was published in 1968. Hayder Hayder is a Syrian author born in 1936 who wrote many novels and short stories. The leopard was his first novel.

The most famous novel for Hayder Hayder is "A Banquet of Seaweed" in Arabic is وليمة لاعشاب البحر In 1983, this novel was banned in many Arabian countries because the fatwa from al Azhar accused Hayder Hayder by Heresy and offending Islam, and consider the book as blasphemy. Because of this novel, some articles called Hayder Hayder as a new Salman Rushdie.

The movie director Nabil Maleh born in 1936, died in 2016 in Dubai after he left Syria because of the war in 2011. At 14 years old, Nabil Maleh was outspoken politically, by writing some article criticizing Gamal Abdel Nasser, which controlled Syria as part of the United Arab Republic.

At 16 years old, he went to the Czech Republic to study nuclear physics, but he fell in love with the film industry and studied it in FAMU in Prague. In 1964 he graduated and considered the first European film graduate in his native country. He won more than 60 awards at international film festivals. In 1981, he had to leave Syria and started to teach in many universities like Texas, California, and Los Angles. In 1993 he back to Syria again. His studied and his revolutionary ideas made this movie included what is considered the first partial nude scene in Arab cinema and made this movie considered as the beginner movies in Syrian's movie industry.

When Hayder Hayder wrote this novel in 1968, before that time, there are two events which had terrible effects on the writer and people. The first one was in 1948, and the second was1967, those two dates were the years when Arab countries lost the war in front of Israel. Therefore, the writer and the movie tried to show the disappointment of people from the new governments after independence. Those governments were one of the reasons for losing the Wars. For that, the movie was banned in 1968. However, in 1970 the correctionist movement الحركة التصحيحة that made Hafez AL Assad new president of Syria allowed Maleh to start with the movie. In 1972 the film released. In my opinion, the reasons for the new decision. Because the new government tried to use the movie to show how the last governments were fragile and the people were suffering from the Feudal system. And the movie's plot takes place at the Alawites villages on the coastal side of Syria the same area of Hafez Al Assad lived.

The story of this movie is about a fictional depiction of Abu' Ali al-Shahin, a legendary rebel of the 1940s. One peasant called Abo Ali, this person suffered from the Feudal system, which represented by Al agha, the Landowner. This suffering leads Abo Ali to rebels against Al-Agha and against the government, which supports the Feudal system after the Landowner tortured him and took his land. He escapes to the hills, starting guerilla attacks against the new forces of tyranny.

The movie shows some problems and issues that people suffered from and manifests the dreams and situations after the independence from France colony. The dreams of living better and no need for guns anymore. Nonetheless, the people have been treated worse than France colony, and it was clear the weakness of the new government in front of the agha the Landowner. By those new conditions, the rule of religion was not far away from it. The film showed the religion rule in the movie, which was supporting the government and the Landowner and asked Abo Ali to stop killing the soldiers. In the movie, the reaction of people with Abo Ali was diverse. A lot of people loved, helped him, and want to join him. that made Abo Ali looked like a legend by telling stories about him some of those stories right some of them lie. Although, people were afraid. In the end, his uncle betrayed him and called the police when he was at his home.

One of the themes that the movie shows the rule of women was represented by Shfica, the wife of Abo Ali. She fought with her husband and suffered like him. She has the voice of reality. As Cécile Boëx notes, this depiction of female resistance subverts commercial cinema conventions, as Shafiqa is no longer merely an object of male desire, but a rifle-bearing rebel for a collective cause (Ten Arab Filmmakers: Political Dissent and Social Critique, edited by Josef Gugler)

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