Teaching Students About Omar Sharif
When it comes to teaching students about influential figures in the arts, Omar Sharif stands out as a powerful subject of study. Born on April 10, 1932, as Michel Dimitri Chalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, Sharif was a multitalented actor known for his charisma, striking looks, and unforgettable roles in both Hollywood and international cinema. Integrating lessons on Sharif into your curriculum provides opportunities to explore the art of filmmaking and to capture glimpses of cultural history.
Delving into Omar Sharif’s Early Life
Begin by providing students with a brief overview of Sharif’s background. Discuss his birth in Egypt and his upbringing in a prosperous Christian family of Lebanese descent. Describe how he grew up immersed in Egypt’s cosmopolitan culture, speaking Arabic, French, English, Greek, and Italian by adolescence. Share that his interest in acting started when he watched an American film at the age of 10.
Introduce Omar Sharif’s Acting Career
As you discuss Sharif’s acting career, start by mentioning his early work in Egyptian cinema. Explain how he changed his name from Michel Chalhoub to Omar Sharif when he started his acting career. Share that one of his breakthrough performances was in Youssef Chahine’s 1954 film “Sira` Fi al-Wadi” (The Blazing Sun), where he starred opposite Faten Hamama – an acclaimed Egyptian actress who would later become his wife.
Discuss the international success brought on by David Lean’s historical epic “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), where Sharif played Sherif Ali. Explain how this role led him to become one of the first Arab actors to gain widespread recognition in Hollywood and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Highlight that Omar Sharif continued working in both Hollywood and international cinema, starring in films such as “Doctor Zhivago” (1965), “Funny Girl” (1968), and “Monsieur Ibrahim” (2003). Discuss how his career spanned over six decades, during which he solidified his reputation as one of the film industry’s most versatile actors.
Exploring Themes and Stereotypes
When teaching your students about Omar Sharif, it’s valuable to have discussions about the importance of representation and how stereotypes can affect an actor’s career. Explain that despite his undeniable talent and success, Sharif often found himself typecast in “exotic” roles which sometimes played on stereotypes of Arab men.
Invite students to watch some of Sharif’s films and analyze the characters he portrayed. Encourage them to discuss whether these roles provided adequate representation for people of Middle Eastern descent or perpetuated negative stereotypes.
Celebrating Omar Sharif’s Legacy
Celebrate Sharif’s contributions by leading students through a critical analysis of his impressive body of work. Discuss how he influenced future generations of actors from the Arab world to break down barriers in Hollywood. Emphasize that beyond acting, Sharif was a talented bridge player who authored several books on the subject as well.
Incorporating the study of Omar Sharif into your curriculum allows students to appreciate the achievements of this iconic actor while examining the impact of cultural representation in film. By exploring Sharif’s life and work, learners gain an understanding not only of world cinema history but also a broader perspective on societal issues and what it means to be a global citizen.