The Night of Counting the Years (1969)

AKA The Mummy, AKA Al-Mummia, which I take some issue with since that’s not what pops out when you put “The Mummy” into Google translate. But what do I know? I haven’t tried out Arabic on Duolingo. Anyway, this is supposed to be one of the best movies that Egypt has produced. Bit of a high bar, but I will say that despite sometimes moving at a glacial pace, this was remarkably enjoyable. Depressing as all hell, but still.

The movie is about the based-on-a-true-story discovery of Tomb TT320, also known as the Royal Cache. Ancient Egyptian relics are appearing on the black market, and city scholars are going to investigate where they came from. Meanwhile, two sons in a nomadic tribe find the secret of their people’s survival: looting a cave full of mummies and selling the treasure. One son is absolutely horrified and puts his foot down that this will not continue; he is promptly murdered. The other son is our main character, and he goes on a depressing, soul-searching trek. He runs into a stranger who, cinematically, appears to be a representation of his naive self (as of a day ago). If that’s not the case, then props to director Mr. Shadi Abdel Salam for finding someone who looks remarkably like the main character. Anyway, discovering more instances of his tribe being dicks–including them beating the shit out of him–he goes to the scholars and tells them everything. The cave turns out to be a repository of dozens of mummies, hidden away thousands of years ago when their tombs were looted. The mummies are taken back to the city, the tribe watches helplessly, and our protagonist stumbles off into the desert, presumably to die.

This was a lot heavier than I thought it would be. The winners are Egyptian, sure, but the losers are also Egyptian residents? The pursuit of knowledge and history wins while a tribe that has survived on the outskirts of society will most likely collapse. Rough stuff. But the cinematography is beautiful, which almost makes up for the soul-crushing nature of it all!

And just a note, but since January I’ve had the “1969” button on the Archives, but without any reviews from that year. It instead directed to a mostly blank page with the word “Nice” in big, bold letters. So reviewing this film made me toss out a 69 joke that no one ever noticed. The more you know.

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