2008-07-28 02:44:07 GMT 2008-07-28 10:44:07 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English
BEIJING, July 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Youssef Chahine, the Arab world's greatest filmmaker and recipient of the 50th annual lifetime achievement award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, died Sunday in his home in Cairo aged 82 after several weeks in a coma.
"Youssef Chahine died this morning at 3:30," said his friend and fellow director Khaled Yussef, who co-directed Chahine's latest film "Chaos" in 2007.
A funeral ceremony will be held in Cairo on Monday, Yussef said, before Chahine is buried in the family crypt in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria where he was born, Egypt's official MENA news agency said.
Chahine never shied away from controversy during his long career, criticizing U.S. foreign policy as well as Egypt and the Arab world.
Born in 1926 in Alexandria into a Christian family, Chahine attended prestigious Victoria College, the alma mater of many Arab and Egyptian intellectuals who made major contributions to 20th century Arab culture. After spending one year at the University of Alexandria, he went to America to study drama at the Pasadena Playhouse in California.
Back in Egypt, he turned his talents to directing and made a series of films which established his reputation as a serious figure in the country's 20-year-old film industry.
Upon the release of his fourth film, "Nile Boy" (1951) he was invited to the Cannes Film Festival. "Raging Sky" (1953), shot when King Farouk was still on the throne, dealt with the challenge mounted by a simple farmer to his feudal landlord, establishing Chahine as independent-minded and ready to challenge authority.
He was credited with discovering Omar Sharif, who starred in "The Blazing Sun," released in 1954, and became the first Arab actor to rise to stardom in Hollywood.
In his classic, "Cairo Station," Chahine played the lead, a newspaper seller at the railway station who had a fatal fixation for a woman who sold lemonade. Conservative Egyptians hated the film and it was put on the shelf for 20 years.
During his long career, he made more than 40 films. The last, "This is Chaos," was premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2007.