Iskandariyya…leh? (Alexandria…why?) (Egypt: 1979)


Youssef Chahine

Cast list

Ahmed Zaki as Ibrahim
Naglaa Fathy as Sarah
Farid Shawqi as Mohsen’s Father
Mahmoud El-Meliguy as Qadry
Ezzat El Alaili as Shaker
Youssef Wahby
Wehia Chahine
Leila Fawzi
Mohsena Tewik
Akela Kateb
Zeinab Sedky
Seif El Dine
Ahmad Abdel Waress
Abdel Aziz Makhyoun
Gerry Sundquist as Thomas ‘Tommy’ Friskin


Produced by: Youssef Chahine
Written by: Youssef Chahine and Mohsen Zayed
Edited by: Rashida Abdel Salam
Cinematography: Mohsen Nasr


The first film of the Alexandria Trilogy, Iskandariyya…leh? portrays the early life of director Youssef Chahine. A Christian growing up in Alexandria during World War II, Yehia becomes enamored with American cinema because it provides an escape from the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Delving further into his fantasy world, he dreams of traveling to Hollywood in order to become a famous writer, director, or actor. However, as he learns more about the war, it becomes more difficult for him to ignore its harsh realities, especially once he falls in love with a local woman. He often asks himself why did he have the poor luck of being born in Alexandria. This drama won the Silver Bear-Special Jury Prize at the twenty-ninth Berlin International Film Festival. It was also selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the fifty-second Academy Awards but was not accepted as a nominee.


Canby, Vincent. Alexandria Why (1979) Film: A Young Egyptian Dreaming of Hollywood: The Cast. The New York Times. (newspaper)

Nice, Pamela. Chahine on Chahine: The Alexandria Trilogy. Al Jadid: A Review and Record of Arab Culture and Arts. (online magazine)

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Alexandria, Why? Chicago Reader. (online magazine)

Kiernan, Maureen. Cultural Hegemony and National Film Language: Youssef Chahine. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, No. 15 (1995), pp. 143-146.

Le Péron, Serge and Daney, Serge. Le syndrôme Alexandrie./ Entretien avec Youssef Chahine. Cahiers du Cinéma; nr.310 (April 1980), pp.18-25.

Massad, Joseph. Review Essay and Interview: Art and Politics in the Cinema of Youssef Chahine. Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Winter 1999), pp. 77-93.

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