Friday Films: ‘Gate of the Sun,’ Based on the Novel by Elias Khoury

Every Friday, ArabLit suggests a new classic film-book combination — for you to watch and read — until we run out of steam about 20 weeks in:

gateIn September 2011, author Elias Khoury, translator Humphrey Davies, and filmmaker Yusry Nasrallah came together at the AUC’s downtown campus to discuss the classic Gate of the Sun: in Arabic (1999), in English (2006), and on film (2004).

During his presentation, Khoury — who is also a great oral yarnspinner — frequently spoke of detaching himself from Bab al-Shams, or Gate of the Sun. The book, he said, ultimately did not belong to him. “Because the writer is only an agent of literature, an agent of the human experience. The name of the author is only a name, which…will be forgotten. What will be remembered is the story itself. And here I remember the first time I met Yusuf Idris.”

Khoury went on to tell an anecdote about meeting the great Egyptian short-story writer, who told him that the best writers are invisible, and that an author should strive for invisibility.

Nasrallah, when he spoke about making Gate of the Sun into a movie—with Khoury’s assistance—also talked about how, when making a movie, “you disappear behind the film.”

Interestingly, Davies was the one among the three who didn’t talk about striving for invisibility.

In her 2005 review for Electronic Intifada, Jenny Gheith wrote of the film, “Bab el Shams has deservedly received praise in the film community; it was selected by Cannes Film Festival to be part of its official, out of competition selections, and has been screened at film festivals worldwide. Do not miss the chance to watch this riveting film, which traverses fifty years of Palestinian history and is filled with love, life and an ongoing will to survive.”

All free online versions of Bab al-Shams seem to have been removed or blocked.

Previous Friday films:

The Dupesbased on Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Son

Diary of a Country Prosecutor, based on a novel by Tawfiq al-Hakim

Adrift on the Nile, based on a novel by Naguib Mahfouz

A Nightingale’s Prayerbased on a novel by Taha Hussein.

 Kit Katbased on the novel The Heron by Ibrahim Aslan, available in translation by Elliott Colla.

The Egyptian Citizen, based on Yusuf al-Qa’id’s award-winning novel War in the Land of Egypt

The Lamp of Umm Hashem, Inspired by a Novella by Yahia Haqqi