Mohamed Khan, one of Egypt’s leading directors, whose films focused on social ills and often featured feminist protagonists, died on Tuesday in Cairo. He was 73.
His death was confirmed by Ashraf Zaki, the head of Egypt’s actors’ union. The state-run news service Ahram Online said the cause was an unspecified sudden health crisis.
While Mr. Khan was not prominent beyond the Middle East, his neorealist films were both popular and critically acclaimed in the region. Three of them, “Streetplayer” in 1984, “The Wife of an Important Man” in 1987, and “Dreams of Hind and Camilla” in 1989, were included by the Dubai International Film Festival in 2013 in its list of the 100 Best Arab Films in the book “Cinema of Passion.”
Mohamed Hamed Hassan Khan was born in Cairo on Oct. 26, 1942, to a Pakistani father and an Egyptian mother. He was an early film fan, watching outdoor movies from his bedroom window, but planned on studying architectural engineering in London, where a friend introduced him to the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School).
“My real school was being in London in the ’60s and experiencing all the cultural changes — whether in music, fashion or, obviously, in films,” Mr. Khan told the Middle Eastern cultural website TripleW.me this year.
He worked as an assistant director in Lebanon and London. He returned to Egypt in 1977, where he made his directorial debut the next year with “Sunstroke.”
In 1983, he gained fame with “Streetplayer,” about a disillusioned soccer player; followed by “The Wife of an Important Man,” about a repressive policeman; and his 2001 “Days of Sadat,” a dramatization about the former Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat.
Among his most recent films were “Factory Girl” in 2013, one of several in which the protagonist was a feminist — in this case, a poor textile worker who sought to challenge Egypt’s rigid class structure by seizing control of her own fate — and “Before the Summer Crowds” in 2016, which also satirized the country’s society through the relationship of four neighbors visiting a beach resort.
“I don’t think I am qualified enough as a social examiner of any class of Egyptian society,” he told StepFeed.com, a Middle Eastern website. “I would rather be considered just an observer, not a judge.”
One reason he considered himself only an observer was that under a law in effect until 2004, he was not an Egyptian citizen because he was the son of an Egyptian woman married to a foreigner. Mr. Khan was granted Egyptian citizenship in 2014.
He collaborated with his wife, the screenwriter Wessam Soliman, on three of his two dozen films. She survives him along with their daughter, Nadine, who is also a film director, and their son, Hassan.
Khan was born on October 26, 1942 in Cairo, Egypt. After completing his high school education in Egypt, he went on to study at the London School of Film Technique (now known as The London International Film School) between 1962 and 1963. While in London, Khan directed several 8mm films. In 1963, he returned to Egypt and worked in the script department of the General Egyptian Film Organization. Between 1964 and 1966, Khan worked as an assistant director in Lebanon. He then moved again in England, where he wrote his book "An Introduction to the Egyptian Cinema" published by Informatics in 1969. He edited another Book entitled “Outline of Czechoslovakian Cinema”, which was also published by Informatics in 1971.
His 1983 film The Street Player was entered into the 13th Moscow International Film Festival. According to a book issued by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in December 2007, Khan's Ahlam Hind we Kamilia (1988) is one of the 100 landmarks in the history of the Egyptian cinema.
He had one daughter, Nadine, a film director, and one son, Hassan. He was married to Wessam Soliman, an Egyptian scenarist who wrote three of his movies: Banat Wust el-Balad (Downtown Girls), Fi-Sha'et Masr el-Guedida (In a Heliopolis Apartment), and Fatat el-Masna' (The Factory Girl).