Set shortly before and during the Six Day War in June 1967, The Sparrow follows a young police officer stationed in a small village in Upper Egypt whose inhabitants suffer from the harassment of a corrupt businessman. The officer crosses paths with a journalist who is investigating what appears to be a scandal involving the theft of weapons and machinery by high officials. Using the protagonist Bahiya’s house as a meeting place, the police officer and the journalist come together to uncover this circle of black marketers. During the inquiries, however, war breaks out and Nasser announces his resignation. A seminal film, The Sparrow is often cited as the first film in Arab Cinema dealing with the predominant theme of defeat.
Youssef Chahine (born in Alexandria, Egypt, 1926) started studying in a friars’ school, and then turned to English College until the High School Certificate. After one year in the University of Alexandria, he moved to the U.S. and spent two years at the Pasadena Play House, taking courses on film and dramatic arts. After coming back to Egypt, cinematographer Alevise Orfanelli helped him into the film business. His film debut was Baba Amin (1950): one year later, with Ibn el Nil (1951) he was first invited to the Cannes Film festival. In 1970, he was awarded a Golden Tanit at the Carthage Festival. With Le moineau (1973), he directed the first Egypt-Algeria co-production. He won a Silver Bear in Berlin for Iskanderija… lih? (1978), the first installment in what proved to be an autobiographic trilogy, completed with _adduta misrija (1982)_ and Iskanderija, kaman oue kaman (1990). In 1992, Jacques Lassalle proposed him to stage a piece of his choice for Comédie Française: Chahine chose to adapt Albert Camus’ “Caligola,” which proved hugely successful. The same year he started writing Mohager, al- (1994), a story inspired by the Biblical character of Joseph, son of Jacob. This had long been a dream-project, and he finally got to shoot it in 1994. In 1997, 46 years and 5 invitations later, he was again selected Hors Competition in Cannes with Massir, al- (1997).