In its origins, surrealism transpired as a radical subversive culture within advanced capitalist societies in Europe during the first few decades of the twentieth century. In colonial and postcolonial societies, however, surrealism variously assumed a quintessence of a protracted struggle between, on the one hand, the old and neocolonial cultural hegemony and, on the other hand, the subversive resistance by the neocolonized, with all the paradoxical elements that are part and parcel of that struggle. One of the few manifestations of a surrealism-inspired cinematic work in the Arab world during the last century is Youssef Chahine’s Alexandria, Again and Forever (1990). This critically acclaimed film is a rich example of Arab cinema that celebrates non-normative personal identity while simultaneously rethinking traditional notions of nation under colonial rule. This third installment of Chahine’s autobiographical film quartet, which he intermittently drew over the course of his thirty-year career, indulges a complex exposé of Chahine the man, the artist, and the political activist. It also draws on mostly imagined, and partly real, episodes in the filmmaker’s life. As such, and rather than using a typically grand anticolonial metanarrative, the film favors the depiction of multiple surrealist proliferations of difference, juxtapositions, dislocation, and distortions seen not as embodiments of a single truth but rather as energized political and aesthetic forms of a collective project for revamping Egyptian and Arab identity and reality.

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