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Chirine el Khadem

(b. 1937)

Chirine el Khadem
(b. 1937)

Chirine el Khadem was born in Cairo into a well-to-do aristocratic family, to an Egyptian father and Norwegian mother, but soon moved to Alexandria with his parents where he attended school at the Lycée Français and later joined the Faculty of Engineering. He continued his studies in Switzerland before turning to the study of film in New York earning both a BFA and an MFA from the New York University Graduate Institute of Film and Television.
In Zurich he married a Swiss, whom he later divorced (they had no children) and moved to Montreal, Canada.

He developed an interest in photography and moved to the United States where he got his graduate and postgraduate degrees. He made a number of movies, including Smithereens, which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

In New York he met a young actress, Joanna Peled, whom he married in 1986 and had a son, Yousri Alfi Nadeer el Khadem. They all live in New York.

Asked about her husband, with whom she worked extensively, Joanna said:
Chirine was very strongly influenced by the structuralists Levi Strauss and Michel Foucault, and even referred to himself as one. He read both of them heavily as well as Structural Marxism and the linguist Naom Chomsky.

Chirine el Khadem invented a Polymetronome, a machine which can keep time and track of many different rhythms. Apparently, inspiration for this invention came from his years in Alexandria, from the sound of a stick being held against a bike wheel with lots of spokes. The idea of the Polymetronome is very structural; you can have many rhythms without having to decide which the best is.

Chirine el Khadem noticed everything around him with a keen cinematographer’s eye. He noticed the strength or lack of colour, a sound, a smell and every little detail took a world of attention from him. He was never harshly critical or judgmental, he accepted almost everything; in that it can be said that he was infused with the spirit of a true Alexandrian. He did have a few whimsical prejudices, however; he could not accept that people were fat, and he loathed bad manners. Nothing much else bothered him.

When asked “How do you decide whether you are going to shoot this or not?” he would answer: “It’s very simple, you look at it, and you either like it or not.”

Simple indeed. A simplicity that has earned him kudos in almost all the films he helped bring about since most of them enjoyed participation in various Film Festivals, and a nomination for a Golden Palm at Cannes in 1982.

Fluent in a number of languages, including English, French, German, Norwegien, Italian, and his native Arabic, Chirine el Khadem was a very versatile artist, a fact to which attest a variety of awards and nominations he received.

He was nominated for the ASC award for cinematography Awarded Sound Recording on Mother for Dinner, a 30 minute film by Liz Nonas, was Scenic Decorator for Conversations of a Woman Alone, an award winning film by Anthony Jones and produced by Togg Film Production.

Chirine el Khadem was guest of honour at the Cairo Film Festival in the 1980s and was interviewed for Egyptian Television by film critic Youssef Sherif Rizkallah.

Director of photography:

1993: Molly Bloom four-hour video production for Access Tucson, produced with Joanna Peled.

1993: Smithereens Feature film by Susan Seidelman, entered in official competition at Cannes Film Festival. Nominated for a Golden Palm,1982.Yours Truly Featurette by Susan Seidelman, won the Blue Ribbon Award at the American Film Festival.

1978: The Foreigner Feature film by Amos Poe, shown at the Whitney Museum, the Deauville Festival, and the Edinburgh Festival. A Guest Status Featurette by Josef Segal, Nominated for ASC award for cinematography. Also shown at the Florence Film Festival.Deficit Featurette by Susan Seidelman. Cypress Dance film written by Nntozake Shange. If the Walls Could Talk documentary for the New York Department of Health Education and Welfare. Playground Documentary for the Children’s Health Program, Department of Labour. The Application of Hypnosis in Medicine Documentary by Adam Malec.

Produced and Directed (between 1978 and 1995)

TV spot with James Taylor and Carly Simon for Columbia Records.
The Conspiracy: a feature film. Y-a multi-screen 20 minute film.TV productions at NnYU studios.

The Foreigner…Mr Kool
Molly Bloom…He

Salome  A film script.
Rigo Stage production, produced with Joanna Pelled