Saladin the Victorious

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Al Nasser Salah Ad-Din
Saladin (1963 film poster).jpg
English version cover
Directed byYoussef Chahine
Produced byAssia
Written byMohamed Abdel Gawad
Youssef Chahine (screenplay)
Abderrahman Charkawi (screenplay)
Youssef El Sebai (story)
Naguib Mahfouz (novel)
Ezzel Dine Zulficar
StarringAhmed Mazhar
Music byAngelo Francesco Lavagnino
CinematographyWadid Sirry
Release date
  • 1963 (1963)
Running time
186 minutes

Saladin the Victorious, also known as Saladin and the Great Crusades (Arabic: الناصر صلاح الدين‎, translit. Al Nasser Salah Ad-Din), is a 1963 Egyptian war drama film directed by Youssef Chahine. It was written by Youssef El Sebai, based on the novel by Naguib Mahfouz. It stars Ahmed Mazhar as Saladin, Salah Zulfikar, Mohamed Abdel Gawad, Tewfik El Dekn, Omar El-Hariri, Mahmoud El-Meliguy, Leila Fawzi, Hamdi Gheiss, Ahmed Luxor, Nadia Lutfi, Hussein Riad, Laila Taher and Zaki Toleimat.

It was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival.[1] The film was restored to its original running time of 186 minutes from the original negative by the Cineteca di Bologna and was shown at Il Cinema Ritrovato in June 2019.


For some historical context, the movie depicts the events of the Third Crusade. What happens during those events is that after Saladin reclaimed Jerusalem, the European powers led by King Richard of England, Emperor Barbarossa of Germany and King Phillip Augustus of France joined together to reclaim it and return it to Christian hands. This resulted in the war between the Europeans and Saladin, which lasted for three years before a truce was made between Saladin and King Richard, allowing Saladin to keep the land while Christians could freely enter Jerusalem.

When the movie came out, it came at a time when Egypt was free of colonial rule and was released between two wars with Israel. Due to this, the Egyptian government was trying to promote its ideals, with the leader at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, being the representative of it. Saladin in many ways references and parallels Nasser as like the president, the movie Saladin pushes forth the ideal of a Pan Arab unity as all Arabs are united in the movie in fighting the European powers, which is no better portrayed then in the line "My dream is to see an Arab Nation under one flag, hearts united and free of hate." This is also portrayed well with Issa, who's an Christian Arab, yet chooses to fight alongside Saladin and his army. Similarly, it also has an anti-colonialism message as the European powers are trying to subjugate the Arab lands under their rule, but they resist and successfully manage to peacefully resolve the war. This is shown in showing the bronze Arabs pulling siege towers at the head of the Crusader army, the Arabs represent those who remain in oppression under imperialistic rule while the mechanical siege towers represent the war-like machines that were present in the battles Egypt fought for their independence.[2]


Budget was enormous at this time in Egypt, reaching 120,000 L.E.[3][4] The poster was created by Egyptian artist Mohamed Ragheb.[5]


The story of Saladin (Ahmed Mazhar) portrays the title character, ruler of the kingdoms surrounding Jerusalem, during the events of the Third Crusade. The film starts with Jerusalem, which is under the authority of the Christians of Europe, having its Muslim pilgrims slaughtered by the Christians in the holy lands. Saladin upon hearing this news seeks the reclamation of the holy lands in a short, almost impossible campaign. He succeeds in taking back Jerusalem, which leads the powers of Europe to organize the Third Crusade with the combined forces of the French king (Omar El-Hariri) and German emperor under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart of England. Saladin succeeds in preventing the recapture of Jerusalem, and in the end negotiations between himself and Richard (whom Saladin admires as the only honorable infidel leader) leave the Holy Land in Muslim hands.

The movie also has a subplot involving the Christian Issa (Salah Zulfikar), and the Crusader Louisa (Nadia Lutfi). At the beginning, both first meet when Issa accidentally comes upon her when she's taking a bath, and after he turns away waiting for her to get dressed before he takes her prisoner due to being a Crusader, she shoots an arrow at him and escapes. Eventually, after Issa in turns spares her life twice, Louisa chooses to give up her arms as a Crusader and becomes a nurse. This leads to the two falling in love and marrying each other, with Louisa choosing to remain in Jerusalem with him.


It is considered one of most important epic Arabic movies. Though, Some were upset that there are inaccurate historical events and facts.[6][7] Also it is infamous for a production mistake showing a military officer wearing a wristwatch.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "3rd Moscow International Film Festival (1963)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  2. ^ Sturtevant, Paul. "SaladiNasser". Hollywood in the Holy Land: 123–146.
  3. ^ Rebecca., Hillauer (2005). Encyclopedia of Arab women filmmakers. Brown, Allison (Translator), Cohen, Deborah., Joyce, Nancy. (Rev. and updated ed.). Cairo, Egypt: American University in Cairo Press. p. 31. ISBN 9789774162688. OCLC 506249242.
  4. ^ Malek., Khouri (2010). Arab national project in Youssef Chahine's cinema. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1936190515. OCLC 680621216.
  5. ^ "Tarek Ragheb Establishes Arts Scholarship to Honor Father's Memory". The American University in Cairo. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  6. ^ "أخطاء قاتلة في تاريخ صناعة الأفلام المصرية -" (in Arabic). 2017-04-07. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  7. ^ "غسان مسعود: يوسف شاهين غيّر في أحداث "صلاح الدين" من أجل عبدالناصر | المصري اليوم". (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  8. ^ توفيق, أحمد خالد (2017). وساس وهلاوس. Kayan Publishing. p. 49. ISBN 9789778200348.

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