Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do. What got you into filmmaking?
I’m half Egyptian, half Swiss. I grew up in Cairo and moved to Lausanne about 6 years ago to study film at the University of Arts and Design of Lausanne (ECAL). I graduated two years ago and today I’m focusing on writing/directing fiction and documentaries. I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker for quite some time. At the time when DVDs started coming out, I would watch the ‘making of’ segments of every film I could get my hands on, and I realized pretty quickly that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I found it incredible that from so many false elements, we can create a new reality. This has always fascinated me, it’s like a big magic trick. Films are also an escape for most people, including myself of course, and at the same time they can also confront you with things you would tend to shy away from. Cinema is a very powerful communication tool.
How would you describe your aesthetic? What kind of films do you shoot and why? In a similar vein, what are you favorite things to shoot?
I took me a while to find my own voice, and I don’t think I will ever settle on a specific style or aesthetic. My documentaries are shot ‘on the go’, in the sense that I don’t prepare for what I’m about to shoot, the story unfolds as you see it. One thing you’ll find in all my fiction films is a lot of dialogue. I love listening to people talk, argue, debate and even yell at each other. Adding different languages, accents, nuances to a conversation on screen is just music to my ears. I tend to focus on social dramas; deeply human stories with internal conflicts rather than external. Filmmaking is all about bringing together what should separated and separating what should be together. A story, whether it’s a film, a book, an anecdote from work, is all about some routine that got broken; the status quo was disrupted–that’s where are all stories begin. That disruption might have been caused by the smallest of actions, and it doesn’t matter, there’s a story worth telling. My style and sense of taste is always going to evolve but as long as the emotion is there, I’ll tell whatever story I feel is right. Lots of dialogue is probably something I will hold on to forever.
We noticed that some of your films tend to touch on immigration/immigrants or the notion of “the other”—what makes you interested in this subject matter? Has living in Switzerland influenced your lens/perspective as a filmmaker?
I was born in a Arabic speaking country but went to French and American schools. My family is Christian in a predominantly Muslim country. My father’s family lives a very primitive village in the south of Egypt and my mother’s family are conservative farmers in the Jura/Bernois. Growing up we spoke a mix of Arabic, French and English at home. I feel as much Egyptian as I feel Swiss. I’ve always been torn between so many different elements, I struggled to find my place when I was younger. I realized that I belong everywhere as well as nowhere. When I arrived in Switzerland I was an immigrant and yet I wasn’t at all. I faced a strange culture shock when I moved; everything was so familiar yet so new. Part of my Egyptian family moved to Switzerland in search for a better life and to provide for their family back home. I saw and still see the struggle they face to integrate themselves and adapt to this new way of life. All these different elements have deeply influenced who I am today and by definition the way I make films.
What are you favorite things about living in Lausanne?
I think more about food then anything else during the day. Discovering new places with good food is one of my favorite things to do in Lausanne… or anywhere actually. In Lausanne, I’m a regular customer of Chez Xu (Chinese restaurant), Pla Tu Thong (Thaï Restaurant), and any Korean restaurants. I love going to ‘La Clef’ bar that is downtown. I also love walking around l’Hermitage and the woods of Sauvabelin to brainstorm.