In the enlightening, if mildly patronizing, tradition of alt-film programming of third-world movies that are more exotic cultural expressions than they are socko art, the Walter Reade's Arab series begins with pioneering Egyptian workhorse Salah Abou Seif, who began toiling in his nation's callow film industry in his teens, and directed the first film of a 46-year career in 1945. From the evidence we have to go on, Abou Seif was no stylist, or much of a formal thinker, but he comprised a kind of front-guard norm in mainstream Egyptian filmmaking, leaping from genre to genre with ease and making a consistent effort to steer the cinematic colloquy away from opulent-yet-pious nonsense and toward a social consciousness. (Always officially censorial, Egypt still struggles to entwine Islamist astringency with belly-dancing traditionalism.) In sharp contrast to the bulk of Egyptian cinema, Abou Seif's dealt with poor people and the issues of conflicted propriety and injustice that dominate life in a realm struggling with... More >>>