Many of Egyptian cinema's biggest stars were among those gathered at a Cairo church for the funeral of Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, Arab cinema's most famous director.
Egyptian screen stars were among around 1,500 mourners who gathered at a Cairo church on Monday to bid farewell to Arab cinema's most celebrated director, Youssef Chahine, who died on Sunday aged 82.
Hundreds of celebrities and officials were crammed into the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection, with hundreds more gathered outside as the controversial director's coffin was carried in, draped in the Egyptian flag.
His protege and colleague Khaled Youssef, who co-directed Chahine's latest film "Chaos" in 2007, was among the pall bearers.
The congregation included many of the biggest stars of Egyptian cinema -- for decades the Arab world's most popular -- alongside officials from the ruling National Democratic Party which was often targeted in Chahine's films.
Representatives from other parties across the political spectrum were also in attendance, along with dozens of journalists, an AFP correspondent reported.
Chahine died in a Cairo hospital on Sunday after several weeks in a coma, with tributes from the Arab world and beyond pouring in for a man who actor Nur al-Sherif described as "one of the most important film-makers in the world."
He won official plaudits for his pioneering role in Egypt's film industry and was awarded the Cannes film festival's 50th anniversary lifetime achievement award in 1997.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Chahine was "a fervent defender of freedom of expression and of individual and collective liberty generally."
Chahine made his first film in Egypt in 1950 and it was there that he also discovered and launched the career of Omar Sharif, who shot to international stardom with "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago."
After the Cairo ceremony, Chahine's body was to be taken to his native city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast for burial in the family crypt.
Date created : 2008-07-28