Friday Films: 20 Great Movies Based on Great Novels

Each Friday, for the next twenty or so weeks, ArabLit will feature a film-novel combination: 

First in the series is the 1991 film Kit Kat, which was based on Ibrahim Aslan’s The Heronin English translation by Elliott Colla.

The film version, written and directed by Daoud Abdel Sayed, got a “best director” prize at the Biennale des Cinémas Arabes in Paris and the Damascus Film Festival in 1992. The film was placed on the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF)’s list of “the 100 Most Important Arab Films” and the novel, meanwhile, was on the list of the Arab Writers Union’s “best 100 novels” of the twentieth century.

One of the wonderful things about The Heron, among wonderful things, is that it has a sense of humor. As Colla said in an email exchange, “Mahfouz insisted that the novel had to be serious, even at the expense of humor, and those who came after Mahfouz accepted this for the most part, even when they wanted to move in other aesthetic directions. Aslan brought the novel back to earth — his characters speak Egyptian,they live banal lives filled with frustration, dead-ends, and stalled revolutions — and most of all, they laugh.”

Kit Kat is notable for being both acclaimed and popular. Mohannad Ghawanmeh writes, on Cinema Arabiata, that “Abdel Sayed conjoined the talents of Aslan and [leading actor Mahmoud] Abdel Aziz, along with those of other skilled cast and crew members to craft an entertaining, heartwarming film that is visually and auditorily impressive. The three numbers, featuring Sheik Husni’s singing and oud playing, especially the one in duet with his son, not only entertain the viewer, but also illustrate the joy that music brings to people who populate a world that at times seems set against themselves.”

Read an excerpt of The Heron, in Colla’s translation; buy a copy off AUCPress, or find one at your library; then sit back and watch the film.