Ala Younis

High Dam
2017

15.2.–26.2. daily 11:00–21:00, except Thu. 22.2: 11:00–19:00 Akademie der Künste

2-channel video installation, 7 min. Arabic, English, Russian.

In the early 1960s, president Gamal Abdel Nasser asked “al-magnon” (the madman), Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, to return to make films in the recently established United Arab Republic. Chahine obliged and was commissioned to direct the first UAR-USSR co-production: a 70mm color feature film on the High Dam in Aswan. His film The People and the Nile was finished in 1968 and rejected. Chahine had to readapt the work to be approved as a new film released in 1972. In the 1990s, Chahine was happy that, in the process of the Soviet Union’s disintegration, he could say “without fear” that he “stole a copy” of the first version, which he released as Once Upon a Time... The Nile in 1997. Meanwhile, Sonallah Ibrahim wrote a novel based on the true(r) chronicles of his trip to the high dam site in 1966. Actress Magda marks her own appearances in works that reflect on the UAR-USSR relationship.
High Dam brings together elements from these creative works in two sets of 35mm slides and posters and offers an insight into the politics of the era, the propaganda apparatus of the UAR and the USSR, and the tricks Chahine resorted to when his work did not fit its producers’ vision.

Ala Younis, born in 1974 in Kuwait, is an artist. Her projects deal with collective experiences that collapse into personal ones, and with how the archive plays on predilections and how its lacunas and mishaps manipulate the imagination. Her projects have been shown at major biennials and exhibitions worldwide. In 2013 she curated Kuwait’s first national pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale and from 2012 she has been curating the Museum of Manufactured Response to Absence, a nomadic museum collection conceived in response to the absence of people and documents relating to the history of Palestinians in Kuwait. She is co-founder of the publishing initiative Kayfa ta.

Production Ala Younis. Production company Ala Younis (Amman, Jordan). Director Ala Younis.

Films

2008: Nefertiti (12 min.). 2009: Six Days (7 min.). 2014: Chapters 1, 2 & 3 ‘from the impossibility of one page being like the other’ (3 min., with Oraib Toukan). 2017: High Dam.

Photo: © Ala Younis