High Dam

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.
by Ala Younis Jordan 2016 Arabic, English, Russian 7’ Colour & Black/White


Director Ala Younis
Producer Ala Younis

Produced by

Ala Younis

Ala Younis

Ala Younis, born in 1974 in Kuwait, is an artist. Research forms a big part of her practice, as do curating, collaboration, film and book projects. Her works have been shown at major biennials and exhibitions worldwide. In 2013 she curated Kuwait’s first national pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. She is co-founder of the publishing initiative Kayfa ta and member of the Academy of Arts of the World in Cologne.


2008 Nefertiti; 12 min. 2009 Six Days; 7 min. 2014 Chapters 1, 2 & 3 ‘from the impossibility of one page being like the other’; with Oraib Toukan, 3 min. 2016 Ex-Soviet Archives; 3 min. 2017 High Dam; video installation, 7 min., Forum Expanded 2018 2019 Drachmas

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019