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MAY 15-30

Forty years before Central Station, Youssef Chahine made Cairo Station, which presents a microcosm of Egyptian society while recounting the unrequited love of a newspaper hawker (played by the director) for a lemonade vendor. The film (Saturday, May 22, at 12:30 p.m) is both a masterpiece by a director whose work is rarely seen in this country and a typical example of how Chahine’s films combine personal concerns with broader social and historical issues. While this seven-feature retrospective includes some unabashedly autobiographical work, it opens with two sweeping historical dramas: The Emigrant (Saturday, May 15, at 2:30 p.m.) portrays Hebrew patriarch Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt from an Egyptian viewpoint, and Destiny (Sunday, May 16, at 4 p.m.; pictured) challenges contemporary Islamic orthodoxy by depicting 12th-century Spanish-Arabian philosopher Averroes as a freethinker. The series also features two-thirds of Chahine’s Fellini-like trilogy about his life as a filmmaker: In Alexandria…Why? (Saturday, May 29, at 2 p.m.), a movie-mad young boy is more interested in his role in the school play than nearby battles between Allied and Nazi troops; in Alexandria, Again and Again (Thursday, May 30, at 4 p.m.), the grown-up boy is a director wracked by artistic doubts. More explicitly political are The Land (Sunday, May 23, at 5 p.m.), an epic tale of struggle between farmers and a landowner, and The Sparrow (Saturday, May 29, at 4 p.m.), a story of political corruption in the shadow of the Egypt-Israel war of 1967. At the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th & Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)