We were very proud when we heard about “Hent Ward” being selected to participate at the Oscars qualifying award in Palm Springs International Film Festival. The festival will be virtual, and it will take place from June 16th till the 22nd.
And since that we love to get to the bottom of things, we decided to interview the talented Director and Filmmaker, Morad Mostafa. It was certainly a thrill to get to talk to him and ask him a few questions about the process of making his short film.
Since you’re the one who wrote “Henet Ward”, how did you come up with this idea?
In the beginning, I was looking for a different story about other nationalities and cults, because Egypt is not a small country. There’re a lot of other nationalities that live inside Egypt such as refugees, specifically Africans or Sudanese. They have a lot of stories in Egypt and most of them you’ve heard nothing about. Also, I wanted to put this non-Egyptian character in a very simple, Egyptian house. Specifically in a special event of secret women’s world to capture and reflect certain details of this event and the festive traditions like dancing, cooking, henna painting, and preparing the bride. I had the desire to shoot this in a documentary style. Through this festive event, I wanted to create this subtle tension between the characters to highlight what is the Egyptian society experiencing right now, where anger, violence, bullying, and racism have increased.
How long did it take you to finish the film, from the writing process to post-production?
The film took about 6 months from the writing until post-production. That was last year, specifically, we started writing in March 2019 and we filmed in mid-July. It’s hard to make a film in Egypt especially these days due to the economic conditions we’re living in these days. I decided to produce this film with my own money and not to depend on funds from any Institutions as they consume time. After the production phase, other companies joined to help me in the post-production stage like (Red Star Films & The Cell & Team One Productions).
What does this film discuss?
The film is about simple people and the hostility that they have with each other. Also about the refugees in general and the Sudanese in particular. The idea of bullying between Egyptians and non-Egyptians in the popular neighborhoods is presented by a Sudanese henna painter who goes with her young daughter to a popular area to prepare a bride, but there is a sudden dramatic escalation that reveals the idea about bullying between two classes that are closely related to each other.
Selecting the cast of the film is a hard process, how was this for you?
The casting process wasn’t very easy, because from the first moment, while writing this project, I knew that I wanted real people who are not professionals and without any acting background, to direct their feelings, because they are closer to the written characters. I wanted their feelings to remain very spontaneous in front of the camera. That made the general atmosphere of the movie closer to the documentary but in the form of a narrative.
Casting the Sudanese woman, of course, was difficult because I was looking for a Sudanese woman in her early forties with strong and attractive features, and works as a henna painter, and to have a daughter that fits for the role. But, frankly, it was an enjoyable experience from the moment of choosing until their training.
The film Took place in “Nazlet El Seman, why did you choose this location in particular?
I was looking for a different local area that has simple local houses in a cultural place with a historic background to focus the mix between two cultures in this story, like in the same shot we see the Sudanese woman in front of the camera and the pyramid in the background, and on the other hand, I wanted to show the contrast between this very beautiful thing “The pyramids” and this very local place that exists behind it, called “Nazlet Al Seman”.
Describe to me the moment you knew that your film has been selected for the Palm Springs international film festival?
I got the news in the middle of the night because of the time difference. I was really happy and I jumped off my chair when I read it was selected. Palm Springs is one of the most important film festivals worldwide.
You’ve been an assistant director in many great movies, how do you describe this experience?
In fact, my experience as an assistant director was very beneficial over the 10 years. I learned how a director can run and implement a project in reality.
My journey started 10 years ago when I meet someone in “the Cinema Palace” who helped me to work in the industry. He gave me a job as Asst-Director in TV series and commercial films, but I’ve always wanted to work in independent films. Then I met “Sherif Elbendary” and I worked with him in his first feature film (Aly The Goat and Ibrahim). Also, I worked with other directors belongs to this new wave, last of them was Souad with Ayten Amin.
This is the first film you direct, how does this feel? Were you scared or thrilled to go through this experience? Did you have any doubts?
I was very pleased during the making of the movie in all its stages. I wasn’t afraid at all at any moment because I believe that you shouldn’t be afraid of your cinematic work but rather love it until you can get a grip on it.
Of course, I had great challenges, especially this is my first work. I was making sure it’s not going to be like any previous work in terms of form and content because I want to prove myself as a director among many directors, whether in Egypt or internationally, and I wanted to make a film that resembles me.
You worked as an assistant director in “Souad” and it was selected for Cannes Film Festival, how does it feel to have two movies, one you participated in and one you created, in two different important festivals?
It was a great moment when “Souad” was selected for the Cannes Film. In fact for the whole team especially that we watched the press conference together online. This selection is very dear to me as it marks the end of my journey as an assistant director with having festival du Cannes in my CV. It came with the Palm Springs selection which will allow “Henet Ward” to get into the Oscar race if it wins an award. This year is a clear message that Egyptian cinema is on the right track in shorts and features.
As a successful filmmaker, what’s your advice for young aspiring filmmakers to keep going?
Just don’t give up if you don’t have enough budget to make a film. You can do a good film that is celebrated internationally with a small budget. What important is to depend on the artistic form of the film and the script to make it look like you. Don’t be afraid of the experience, make your films with all the audacity and try and learn from your films. Always tell yourself that it’s just a film among many films that you’ll make. I think it’s a healthy way to overcome any tension. I also think that we’re in the stage of relying on low-cost films so that every filmmaker can implement one or two films per year.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I have a short film at the moment in the development phase. It will be co-production with a French producer.
A wise mind, a good heart, an incredible chef with a touch of never-ending existential crisis, all in one person. What could be better? Yara is a great writer who always tries to have fun with anything she does.