Blazing Sun, The (1954)

This early work by the Egyptian master introduces us to the indelible Omar Sharif whose character gets caught up in a severe case of injustice as the wealthy exploits the poor in a rural village.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,265

Dir. Youssef Chahine
1954 | Egypt | Drama/Romance | 116 mins | 1.37:1 | Arabic
PG13 (Netflix rating) for some violence

Cast: Omar Sharif, Faten Hamamah, Zaki Rustum, Farid Shawqi, Hamdy Gheith
Plot: A rich landlord floods and destroys a village on purpose to prevent the people living there from making a profit off their crops. What he doesn’t know is that his own daughter is in love with Ahmed, a young man from the village.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
Source: Front Row Filmed Entertainment

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Class, Community, Injustice
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

The Blazing Sun was Youssef Chahine’s second film to play in the Cannes main competition after Son of the Nile (1951), but it was already his sixth feature. 

Considering how prolific Egypt’s master director had been, The Blazing Sun was still part of his phase of early works, one that introduced to the world Omar Sharif, the charming Egyptian actor who would famously go on to star in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). 

Another notable aspect of Chahine’s film is that some segments of it were shot in the beautiful Valley of the Kings in Luxor, an archaeological site that would become a World Heritage Site more than two decades later. 

“Our hearts are full of hope, but patience has run out.”

Sharif plays Ahmed in an indelible performance, who helps his fellow villagers achieve success with their sugar cane crops.  Nearby, a wealthy old man is unhappy that his own sugar cane business is threatened financially, leading him to nefariously sabotage the hard work of the villagers. 

The Blazing Sun, shot in a neorealist style not unlike something that Satyajit Ray in his early days might have conceived, explores the theme of injustice and class exploitation—a rather severe case that Ahmed gets embroiled in, and one that becomes a matter of life and death. 

Chahine also gives us a central romance plot between Ahmed and the daughter of the aforesaid rich man, which adds an intriguing layer to the narrative.  Largely compelling and appealing, The Blazing Sun is a good introduction to the work of Chahine.

Grade: B+

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