Podcast Episode 76: Khaled El Nabawy And Egyptian Cinema
Egyptian star talks about playing Anwar Sadat at The Globe and about his films
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another edition of the KPBS Cinema junkie podcast. I’m Beth Accomando. The day we traveled the Egypt by way of an actor I was told was the Egyptian Brad Pitt. In other words he’s a big star, even though most Americans don’t know his name, and his name is-- Khalid El Nabawy: In Egypt they say Khalid El Nabawy. Beth: Yeah, I had to have him teach me how to pronounce his name. Khalid: Some of the people here they say, “Kalid,” or others say, “Halid.” But sometimes I succeed to make them say, “Khalid.” Say it, “Kha…” yeah, try it. Beth: Khalid El Nabawy. I think that’s not quite right, but I’m getting close. But El Nabawy is in San Diego to replace the role of Anwar Sadat that he originated in Lawrence Write play, “Camp David” in 2014 at Washington DC Arena Stage. Currently he’s playing the role at the Old Globe Theater. I took advantage of his availability to talk not just about the play, but also about his career in Egypt. We don’t get many films from Egypt here in the US, so I was eager to get some insights into a cinema that I was unfamiliar with. I also wanted to get him on the podcast because the globe is holding a screening of “The Citizen” an English-language film he made in the US in2012. The free screening will be on Monday, May 23rdand is already full although you can sign up for a wait list incase people don’t show up. In addition, Karama, the Arab and Islamic Information Project will be holding a screening on Sunday, May 22nd, at the 1959 Egyptian film, “Struggle on the Nile”. The film stars a young Omar Sharif, three years before we would see him in David Leans, “Lawrence of Arabia”. Before I speak with El Nabawy, I wanted to provide a little context for Egyptian cinema, by speaking with Rebecca Romani, who covers Arabs and African cinema for my blogs, cinema junkie. Having a bonafideEgyptian star in our midst provided us with the perfect hope of talking about Egyptians cinema. I began our discussion by asking Rebecca how she fell in love with Arabs and North African cinema. Rebecca Romani: That’s a really great question. I think it started with my having moved to France. I’d been interested a little bit in Arabic culture, a little bit before because of some music work I’ve been doing. When I moved to France, I ended up meeting a lot of writers and actors and aspiring film makers from North Africa, and we ended up talking about a lot of things and because I was interested in films and already been writing film reviews for my college newspaper. Then we had a lot of things in common, we just kind of expanded that, eventually I came back to the US and thenmoved to Morocco for a year to cover various things happening in Morocco and Nigeria, and in the process met a lot of people in the film industry in Morocco. When I came back I realized that, I was very interested in these things and indiscernible] [02:58] these films for a lot of these books. There was sort of an absence of information and an absence of scholarship on some of the stuff. When I ended up going to STSU’s school of cinema the TFN department, I ended up presenting in various conferences especially on that on North African film and then expand it to Arab film. Because it’s sort of this natural move over and then there was this general expansion. Beth: On the second part of this podcast I will be speaking with a Khalid El Nabawy and I want to kind of set a context, a little bit of a context for talking about Egyptian film and Egypt is in kind of an interesting spot because it’s part of Africa yet in America we tend to look at Egypt as more part of the middle east. So this kind of makes it a kind of in an interesting place. Rebecca: Vey much so, and I think San Diego is very much lucky to have Khalid El Nabawy coming in because he’s a very interesting actor, top and what he’s doing in Egypt and it will bring a lot of this to the fore. It’s interesting in conversations I’ve heard with my friends from the area who kind of joke and say, “We’re the middle east,” okay, the middle of what, exactly? How in the middle. So for many people in North Africa which is sort of above the sub-Saharan which goes from Morocco on the way to Egypt, this is dual identity, and the time for dual identity has been maybe skip one side and skip to the other, but Egypt in particular really does feel this double connection and has historicallygoing all the way back to the time of the Pharos and that kind of thing where they really are a very integral part of Africa, but at the same time have been moved into the Arab world, into the Muslim World in part by the initial conquest and then by the continuing experience of being an Arabic-speaking country in large part of their languages there too, but also by having this kind of bicultural identification. Beth: If we do get film from Africa they tend to be films that are from former French colonies because the French are very active and kind of fostering cultural exchanges like that, so we tend to see those kind of films. Is it hard to find the truly African film here in the United States to watch? Rebecca: I think there's a problem with foreign film distribution into the United States in general. Then you have the issue of cultural identity, people tend to want more in terms of European films they feel a little closer to them, Asia does extremely well, India has been doing much better as its distribution in and Arab film and African film rise and fall in part due to whatever politics and whatever cultural interests seem to be going on here. There is another problem too, which is monetary and part of it is the distribution channels and how much it cost to first make the film then get the distributors interested and then to distribute. But I think the way for us to see many of these films is to see them in festival. Beth: Now in terms of Egypt in particular, we actually have a very nice opportunity here to go and see the Egyptian film courtesy of Karama, the group which brings us the Arab film festival. Tell me what is screening—and again when we mention Egypt a lot of people may think of the only Egyptian actor thatthey probably know, whichis Omar Sharif. Rebecca: Oh, they’re so lucky because they could see him. Beth: Young. Rebecca: Young. Beth: Very young and attractive [chuckles] Rebecca: Vey much so. Omar Sharif appears in “Struggle on the Nile” which is a 1959 film. “Struggle on the Nile” is sort of the traditional idea of two men and a woman, and having to work their way through various things. It's a great way to sort of reintroduce yourself to Omar Sharif - the younger Omar Sharif because within a few years of this film he's picked up by David Lee for“Lawrence of Arabia”and he's picked up by David Lee because Lee was very much interested in casting ethnically appropriate actors and in fact this launches Omar Sharif career to the rest of us. We only had one in Egypt and he was very well respect, he was very well cast, directors really loved him and I think this is a wonderful opportunity to see why Omar Sharif was his rising star and very much like Khaled El Nabawy, Omar Sharif was discovered by use of Shaheed, the great Egyptian director, so they share those roots. Shaheedhad an excellent eye for people who would not only play well on camera, looks good, but could really feel the depthof the stories he was trying to tell, and he particularly liked working with Omar Sharif. I think it's a real treat for people to be able to see this film. [Song] [08:00] Beth: People have an opportunity to see “Struggle on the Nile” here in San Diego on Sunday, May 22ndat Cinema under the Stars, which is a gorgeous venue to see any movie so this especially and that will be Sunday evening. On Monday evening the 23rd, people will have a chance to see Khaled in something which is “The Citizen” which you had a chance to review when he came here to San Diego, so what's the story about? Rebecca: The story of “The Citizen” is really interesting. The Director and Khaled, thisis his debut film and I think you did a really good job in putting forward some of the issues that had happened after 9/11. Not many people may realize that in fact many people of Middle Eastern descent in the United States were hauledin by Homeland Security and some of them were never released. Many were hauled in accidentally, some were hauled in because people had reported on them because they seem suspicious and different things like this. Just not to give away the story but it's about a young Lebanese man who has won the Green Card Lottery This Is Not Unusual people apply for the Green Card lottery, they get the green card and they’re really happy and they come here. However he's had the misfortune to show up as 9/11 is unfolding and the issues of 9/12, and he falls into the cracks of all the events that cover and are part of this particular experience. Male speaker: So what brings you to The States? Khaled: I won the lottery. Male Speaker 1: How long have you been applying for the Green Card lottery? Khaled: 12 years. Male Speaker: Welcome to America? Khaled: Thanks. Male Agents: We’re the agents, get down. Khaled: Sometimes you have to know when to quit. My life is trying to destroy his. Male Speaker: So you show up at JFK one day before 9/11. You want me to see this as a one big fat coincidence? Khaled: It’s obvious that you people don’t want people. Female Speaker: You can beat this. You just have to decide, remember. Khaled: It has been already decided. Male speaker: I need you to tell me everything about you. What brought you to this country? Khaled: I wanted to become an American. Rebecca: And Khaled follows him through a number of different experiences which really did happen to many different people. It's a great introduction for people now at this remove to think about what happens when a country become so traumatized and perhaps even paranoid after such an event and what happens to the people who are on the margins of that event perhaps even connected ethnically to someone involved, and how they too suffer and what are some of the things. I think for San Diego this is important also because there was a caller by Homeland Security in San Diego of young men of Middle Eastern descent. The film itself is really beautifully shot it's got some very, very gorgeous settings and I think El Nabawy really, really does a beautiful job in this film. He is a very anchoring, a very calming presence in the film, but also he's able to really kind of put forward the different emotions and the confusion and the ability to somewhat come to a position of grace I think by the end of this film, and he does his very elegantly. It's really a beautiful film and I think I would definitely encourage people to go see it. Beth: He is an actor who is well established in Egypt and he has also made films in the English language. What kind of challenges do actors like him face when they are trying to come to a different country to make films? Are the facing stereotypes, are they kind of getting typecast and roles? Are these roles vastly different from what they're playing in their country of origin? Rebecca: I think that's a great question. El Nabawy has had a couple of things to say about it himself it's very interesting. El Nabawy is been very lucky in that he has risen to prominence in Egyptian Cinema. He is well regarded as an actor, but in his coming over into American film, he’s been very careful in the roles he chose. He was cast in the “Kingdom of Heaven” which is the story of Saladin and the Crusades and he has been very, very clear that he is not interested in being offered roles where he has to play the terrorist or the Assassin or whatever it is that's scaring us currently. He's been very clear on that because within his choice of roles there are several things that seemed to guide his choice. One is he's looking for roles that stretch him as an actor and playing tars number two probably doesn't do it. The other thing he's very much interested in is working on roles that bring a more open, more humanitarian - Humane perhaps view of things. He's been choosing roles, where he the character often - basically play a middle eastern character is not one-dimensional, is not running around screaming his head off or whatever but has brought something deeper and something more human to that particular role, and he's been very clear on these roles. He did that in “The king of Heaven” and he's particularly interested I guess in how that comes across Anwar Sadat because he's very interested in showing people that Arab culture and Arab people and Egyptians in particular are very much part of the experience of humanity, we're all in this together. This is really part of his mission. I did want to point something out about him that I think is really interesting. He's a little bit more than an actor in the sense that in Egypt he took a great risk in standing up early on for the Arab Spring in Egypt. He's been very outspoken publicly and also physically present at a time where perhaps it would be very scary to be a well-known person, all kinds of things have happened to people as we know. But he was very adamant that this is Egypt, this is the Egyptian people, he's part of the Egyptian people and he wants to speak for them. He did a very interesting little series of PSA called, “Egypt will not be harassed” [Foreignlanguage] [14:40]. Khaled: Egypt is not to be harassed. Together against unhuman acts Rebecca: Produced by his own, done by his own company in an effort to help smooth the experience for women who hadcome out and we're part of the revolution and the Arab Spring and to make it really clear that harassment of the Egyptian women who came out also as citizens, as participants, was not an Egyptian value and not something that should be tolerated. So I think that’s very interesting that he's done that as well. Beth: Are there any Egyptian films that you would recommend people to seek out? Rebecca: There are several and I think that YoussefChahinelast film, “Chaos” is really interesting in the sense that YoussefChahineis using his position as a filmmaker to look at some of the really serious issues, the corruption and some of the social issues that are coming up in Egypt which precedes the Arab Spring,which are moving into the Arab spring. Another one that I find it very interesting that really gave Egyptian Cinema tremendous boost is the Yacoubianbuilding. The Yacoubian building is off a novel by Alaa Al-Aswany. But it is very unusual in that it looks at many different levels of society, this is in the novel as well and it focuses on several things that have been very taboo in Egyptian Cinema for quite a long time which would be issues of homosexuality, issues of politics, of corruption, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the radicalization of a young man, why would he be radicalized in this way and help people would find happiness in perhaps a way that might be unusual in Egyptian Society but works for them. It's a beautiful shot film it has a number of very well-known Egyptian actors and I think it's one that people might find interesting and I did extremely well both in domestic box office and in international. Beth: If people want to try and find some of these films, these Egyptian films or Arab films or films from Africa, what are some good sources to go to? Rebecca: In San Diego people are really quite lucky. The San Diego Public Library system has been very good and inquiring a lot of different films. I think that the Yacoubian building is certainly in the library. I've seen it listed. Chaos I'm not so sure. There are anumbered of North African films there as well as “Silence of the palace” that they can check out and see. We also have another source which is very easy to work with which is Kensington Video on Adams Avenue. They have an extraordinary range of foreign films and I think that if they don't have it they will certainly work on acquiring it for you which is always nice. There are, I believe probably several sources online you might be able to stream some of these and then there are distributors like Arab film distribution up in Seattle that have very clearly laid-out web sites and I think they'll be more than happy to help you acquire the film if you want, and if it's something that even you're interested in maybe showing some of your friends, they can help you with that as well. Beth: Okay. Are there any last words you’d like to have on talking about some Egyptian cinema? Rebecca: I’m really pleased that we're going to be able to see these things. A “Struggle on the Nile” is a great example of the golden age of Egyptian cinema. Is an absolutely beautiful productions, and it’s really worth taking the time to go see it. The other thing that I think it's good is that we get the chance to think about Egyptian cinema because what we don't realize is that Egyptian cinema in its various forms including the musicals, had tremendous amounts of influence on the Arab world in general and as a connection to our show this coming in the one on Camp David, funny little aside and it's interesting that how El Nabawy is involved in this that, I know I that, almost missed his role – his starring role – early starring role shall we say in Egypt in 1952 when there was the coup that was about to happen because he and his family were at the cinema. Beth: All right. Thank you very much Rebecca for speaking with us about the Egyptian cinema. Rebecca: Oh you’re very welcome. Thank you very much and I hope the people enjoy both the film and the play. Beth: That was Rebecca Romani who teaches and writes about film and is a guest blogger at Cinema junkie. Now for my interview with El Nabawy, let’s begin by hearing a clip of him playing Anwar Sadat in “Camp David”. Richard Thomas plays Jimmy Carter Khaled: It is no way to make peace between us. I am an Arab and he’s Jew, and that’s it. Richard Thomas: You leave me no choice. If Egypt wages another war against Israel, the United States will crash you, and Egypt will be alone, destroyed, friendless for generation because of you. If you want to become our enemy, you decide right now. Khaled: You? Enemy? Richard: It’s a statement of fact. Khaled: Either we accept to be humiliated by the Jew or America will destroy us? If I ask my people to choose, I know they will refuse to be on the knees before the Jew. We have been warned, God has told us we cannot trust the Jew, they’re treacherous people. Richard: [indiscernible] [20:13]the Koran is filled with messages of Torah. Khaled: Don’t be a Koran [foreign language] [20:19]. The Jews are cursed because they turned away from God. Richard: I have no dignity, it’s all my life. It’s almost pick up a holy book, it’s just define their prejudice. Khaled: Get on here man [foreign language] [20:34]. You know nothing about our problems and yet you think you can solve them all at once. Really, you’re not only ignorant, you’re cursed. Richard: You’re right. It was a crazy idea, completely insane, put an Arab and a Jew at a mountain top and ask them to make peace, what was I thinking. These people are ignorant, they just want to go on waging war, century after century, believing into the sand because God wants them to hate each other. Beth: That was a scene from Camp David at The Arena Stage. The Globe production also stars Khaled foot as Rosalynn Carter and Isenberg as Menachem Beghurm. It was directed by Molly Smith who held the world premiere back in 2012. Days before my interview, members of the Anwar Sadatfamily came to see “Camp David” at The Globe. I askedEl Nabawy how it felt to have people who knew Sadat intimately be in the audience watching his performance. Khaled: Of course it’s special that you’re playing a leader and his family is here in San Diego and it’s especially of course I want everyone to watch the play not only them. I love the play and I'm very happy to be here in San Diego at The Old Globe. It's good for them to see that their father is rewarded after all of these years. For me it was just before I come to the stage this night that I have a little bit of thinking that they know everything about him, they know how he moves, how he talks, how he register and how he-- and I would hope that just the series split on stage, his way of thinking and it was very special moment for everyone, not only me. Beth: In playing the characters, what is been the biggest challenge for you? Khaled: The challenge is because I wanted to be transformed to Sadat. As you see me I’m his identity like hair [laughter], I’m not at all. Of course, I needed to be transformed and the makeup artist has done a great job here in the Old Globe and Arena Stage we have to do that as well. I think everyone that worked on this—as a role, it’s a very difficult role but really I’m very lucky to have Morris Smith as a director and all the cast, my friends, Khalid and Richard and Nerd because together we brought something that nobody can bring it individually. Beth: Why was it important for you to be a part of this play? It’s a play that takes us back to a period in time that some people from a younger generation may not remember that well. So did you feel kind of that this was an important piece for you to do? Khaled: Yeah. First of all it's a good play and it's a good role and this is what an excellence need [laughter]. A good director, a good role and a good play or a good movie, whatever. This is what is what I have in this play and for the audience, the play tells the truth as it happened, which is very important for the engine young generation, and even for the old generation, that they don't know everything that happened behind the scenes. It's important. It's an entertaining play which I like very much, because through these negotiation between the three men, and with the great help of fourth character which is Rosie, played by Harry Foot, through this politics and negotiations, you can entertain people because we have to entertain people no matter its politics or not. Beth: With this, a lot of people probably remember pieces from the news, news reports about it but with the place seems to get at is the humanity behind it, the people. Khaled: Yeah, this is true. This is true because they are in a very tough situation. They are getting a lot from their shoulders it's not easy. Beth: You are a film actor in Egypt. A film celebrity, a star. What is it like to go from film to doing a stage production? What's the difference for you as an actor I mean you have a live audience as opposed to not having a live audience for the film? Is there a different kind of satisfaction or different kind of set of skills you use? Khaled: Originally, because I’m coming from the theater, because I started theater in the academy of art in Egypt. But I have done my first movie when I was at the second year at the academy. Theater for me, I don't feel a stranger when I'm on the stage and it's very interesting because you find the rhythm every night with the audience. You play to the audience. You play the movie with the director, with the other actors and he's going to find the rhythm on the set and in the editing room. But on stage you find the rhythm of the audience is interesting. They play with you and we have to play with them. As much as-- this is a secret I don't know if every audience know or not. That as much as they are looking for us to watch us, we also are looking for them, “Which kind of audience we’re going to have tonight.” We feel it. We feel the difference between audiences every night. Beth: In San Diego we’re going to have an opportunity to see one of your films, not one of your Egyptian films, but one that you made here in the United States, “The Citizen” Male Speaker: How did you feel when you learned that the country you fought so hard for has become a season of salt to report to? Khaled: I was devastated, and confused. Male Speaker: Can you elaborate please? Khaled: Even after being detained for a crime that I did not commit, I still wanted to stay here and become a citizen. I thought to myself, “This country is just going through a crisis and one day I will have my freedom like everyone else.” Now, you say you hate our freedoms, how this possibly? I spend my whole life dreaming about the freedom that I hate? Male speaker: What would you say to those Americans who think that you’ll be sent back to Lebanon immediately? Khaled: I would just ask them to remember what they went through to become an American citizen. What I want to say, I respect the law of this country in a way that only an immigrant can. Beth: Tell me about that role and taking that on. What was that for you? Khaled: I really loved the story of :The Citizen” and I love the coarse, just to tell the people that the people are coming from the Middle East are not terrorist. They’re just normal people and they paid their huge price after the 9/11. Andyou cannot court millions of what some individuals have done generally. For example you cannot court the American people for what some of the American officers has done in Iraq for example and Abuharu prison, you cannot do this. Really I love the story, it’s very interesting about a guy who won the Green Card Lottery and he arrived in New York one day before 9/11, oh my goodness. I love it and I love doing this movie with the cast really [indiscernible] [29:25], all of them and I was very happy working with Sam Kati, the director. Beth. American films or Hollywood films tend to type cast people and when they're casting people who are Middle Eastern and they may stereotype them in certain ways, so are you being very careful in the films you choose to make here in the US or in the English to make sure you kind of avoid those type cast roles? Khaled: I don't like stereotype anyway, in Egypt or here, I don’t like stereotype. Sometimes you have very light and entertaining and you want to do it, it's fine with me. But if you want to talk even about a terrorist. Why I turn down all these kind of roles that I'm offered is because it's just saying, “Here there is a terrorist, they take this region for chloric.” Terrorist are riding camel or something like five centuries ago. But I don't mind to play why this terroristbecame a terrorist. I don't mind to tell what's behind him to be a terrorist. Who paid him to be a terrorist?Who financed him to be a terrorist?I would love to do that because this will help everyone to understand the whole dimensions of what's going on in the world now. For example, ISIS, they have many nationalities. They’re not from the Middle East, right? Beth: Yeah. Khaled: We need to find this, what's going on. What's good if we believe in humanity? We need to understand, we need to speak the truth. Beth: Do you look for roles in films that kind of have more to them than just making it film with their films and maybe don't have a message but at least have something to say and are not privileged? Khaled: I’m looking to entertain people, all the time. It’s great if it has a message. You know what, the message doesn’t have to be that big that you might meet with the very simple person. I’ll tell you something that you do not forget the rest of your life. Very simple person, hedoesn't speak a Philosophy or politics or just tell you something. The message I believe is always there. God has told us everything, and created us with all what we need on this planet, in this life, in this universe. Beth: I think for most Americans, if you bring up the idea of Egyptian Cinema or Egyptian actors probably is the only thing that comes to their head is Omar Sharif. So tell me a little bit about what Egyptian Cinema is like in terms of is it a big industry, or are there a lot of films produced? What’s it like? Khaled: First of all Sharif was a great legend in Egypt, of coursebefore he comes to the States, and he was also in Khaled cinema. I was very lucky to have the chance to do two movies with him. One of them we play the same role but different ages, which is “The Traveler” movie. The first one I was still too young, I played his son in the movie, which is called “The Egyptian Citizen”. For me there is no big difference between American movies and Egyptian movies, those in Arabic and those in English. I was very lucky also to work with the greatest people in Egypt as well and I had great experiences through working with Relio Scott in “Kingdom of Heaven” Bill Glinder, and Phil Gen and some Canadian citizen, and now our beloved play “Camp David” with a lovely, great director, Morris Smith. Beth: Are there a lot of films that are produced in Egypt each year? Is it a big industry in terms of the amount of films made? Khaled: It is the big industrial in the Middle East and the Arab world, and they call the Egyptian Cinema East Hollywood. This is what they used to call it, the Egyptian cinema. The market of the Egyptian Cinema is the Arab world because they understand Egyptian language, it's more simple than others with the same letter and when we do a movie in Egypt we go to every country in the Arab world to open the movie there as well. People in the Arab are very familiar with the Egyptian Cinema. We were producing more before, now it's becoming less for many reasons but I believe that very soon it will be raised again. Beth: That kind of occupies an interesting position because you’re kind of part of the Middle East and the Arab world but also part of the African continent are, you kind of a bridge between--? Khaled: Egypt is the main road of the world. Here you look at the map and it’s not only African – you said middle east and Africa - it's Sinai, you can talk about Asia, it’s connected to Asia by Upper Egypt connected to Africa by Alexandria this is the Mediterranean which is Europe. We have the Mediterranean, we have the Red Sea, we have the Nile, and we have Sues Canal. Really Egypt is a connection point for the whole world and not because I’m Egyptian I'm going to say this, but it's just the fact that the first human behavior 7000 years ago, was in Egypt. The first one who said, “God is only one,” was Egnito, the Egyptian Pharaoh. This is why I always tell people to come to Egypt. Egypt is not only for Egyptians, Egypt is for the entire humanity. Come to Egypt to memorize the history, to memorize the civilization, to meet with great and kind people. Beth: If you have to recommend a couple of your films from Egypt to people in the United States to have them, kind of seek those out, what films might they be able to find or what films are you most proud of? Khaled: It’s not that I’m proud it’s [chuckles], it’s that I'm lucky that I was a part of it, which is the immigrants youth shine, and the director and-- by the way he's the one who invented Omar Sharif, yeah for his first two movies. Beth: He also discover you? Khaled: He gave me my first lead, which is “The Immigrant”. Also “Beirut Open City” a movie that I’ve done in Lebanon. You want Egyptian movies, right? Beth: Yeah. Khaled: Also “The Destiny Movie” which is very important movie about how a fanatic would be created. How they shift his mind. How they control his brain. These are the movies that I recommend. Beth: Because I love movies. Movies are kind of like ambassadors from other countries that help us to understand I think other cultures and other people and so we don't get that many films from Egypt, so having you here is a real honor and privilege to be able to ask you to kind of like give us some enlightenment about what films to seek out[chuckles]. Khaled: Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be hear, such as spiritual place, artistic place and the audience, they just embrace our act. You cannot miss this hear. Beth: You also seem to be an artist who have interests outside of just the artistic field because you are also someone who's really politically active as well and that’s something important too? Khaled: Let’s call it politically interested [laughter]. I feel that film is a big responsibility. When I have a chance I just try to help. For example in my country I stand to support the woman roles. I use my heart to talk about what really concerns them, what annoys them. Like what I've done in Egypt is not to be harassed, which is a campaign against sexual harassment. I directed it, I wrote it, used it. I never thought I wanted to be a politician at all. Art is much, much, much, much nicer, and pretty, and art is [laughter] I cannot leave art for politics, I can’t. Beth:But you can use art for politics? Khaled: I can. You mean I can criticize politics, through art we can. I believe we need art because politics is really, really, really, is doing really bad. The art is just maintaining the world everywhere. What are they doing the leaders in this world? Just maintaining, keeping the war everywhere in the world. What's going on, really? The whole humanity is at risk. Nobody's safe. My deepest condolence for the families who lost relatives in Egypt Air plane today that was coming from Chad to go to Cairo. Can you choose the passengers? If you’re hitting passengers you cannot choose their nationalities. So nobody is safe. We need to do something. I’m ashamed of what the leaders are doing. I’m really ashamed. Just maintaining the war everywhere? We need to stop this. Talking about the children, and children’s children, and the future just but-- we have to take care because when we go and hit someone in a country, one day this will fire back. It doesn't have to be now. We are just creating the sense of revenge in this world, while God told us how to be merciful, how to be generous, how to be kind, what going on? Beth: So yes I ask you this, if you could choose any role to play, or any film to make, is there one that you have in mind that maybe would go towards those questions? Khaled: Just to remind people what the great people has done for Humanity, just talk about Martin Luther King, just talk about Lincoln. Beth: But is there a particular role that did you have in mind that you would love to play? Khaled: It’s not about me [laughter]. It’s just-- Beth: It’s kind of right [laughter]. Khaled: Let’s talk about Gandhi, let’s talk about these people who really dedicated themselves for the humanity and remind people with this, remind people with this because really the media is just-- I don’t want to talk [laughter]. Beth: We can return to Egyptian film for one quick moment because in San Diego we have the opportunity this weekend to see a “Struggle on the Nile” which was Omar Sharif film from 1959 before he got cast in “Lawrence of Arabia”-- Khaled: This was his first movie, “Struggle on the Nile”…no this was something like fourth movie for him, yeah. Beth: And you say this is a film we get to see. Is this a film that was important in you, a big fan in Egypt? Khaled: Yeah. What he has done were really great. He’s a big legend and he’s always an inspiration for actors, not only because he came to Hollywood and worked here, no. He was a big star in Egypt. Beth: Right. Your final comments about working on Camp David or about your films? Khaled: Thank you. Beth: Thank you very much for your time. Khaled: Thank you for having me. Beth: Thanks for listening to another edition of the KPBS cinema junkie podcast. I’ll be continuing to explore African cinema in an upcoming podcast, focusing on a first time female director, who’s making a film in Nairobi about music, dance, politics and friends. But before that podcast I’ll be focusing on Shakespearmania as the first folio come to San Diego. And on the upcoming film festival featuring the best in LGBT Cinema. If you don't want to miss any episodes subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also look through the archives at kpbs.org/junkiepodcast. Until our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando.
"The Emigrant" (1994)
"Beirut Open City" (2008)
"The Traveller" 2009)
Cinema Junkie travels to Egypt by way of an actor described as the "Egyptian Brad Pitt." In other words, he’s a big star even though most Americans don’t know his name. And his name is Khaled El Nabawy.
Or maybe Brad Pitt is the American Khaled El Nabawy.
El Nabawy was in San Diego to reprise the role of Anwar Sadat that he originated in Lawrence Wright’s play "Camp David" in 2014 at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage. Currently he is playing the role at the Old Globe Theatre, and I took advantage of his availability to talk not just about the play but also about his career in Egypt.
We don’t get many films from Egypt here in the United States, so I was eager to get some insights into a cinema that I was unfamiliar with.
I also wanted to get him on the podcast, because The Globe is holding a screening of "The Citizen," an English-language film he made in 2012. The free screening will be on Monday, May 23 and is already full, although you can sign up for a wait list in case people do not show.
In addition, Karama, the Arab and Islamic Information Project, will be holding a screening of the 1959 Egyptian film "Struggle on the Nile" on Sunday, May 22. The film stars a young Omar Sharif, three years before we would see him in David Lean’s "Lawrence of Arabia."
Days before my interview with El Nabawy, members of Anwar Sadat’s family had come to see "Camp David" at the Globe, so there was a little extra electricity in the air for everyone involved with the play.
I also speak with Cinema Junkie guest blogger Rebecca Romani about Egyptian cinema to provide a context for my interview with El Nabawy. If you want to find more films from North Africa and Arab countries, Romani recommends checking out the San Diego Public Library and Kensington Video.
I will be continuing to explore African cinema in an upcoming podcast focusing on a first-time female director who is making a film in Nairobi about music, dance, politics and trains. But before that podcast, I will be focusing on Shakespearemania as the First Folio comes to town, and on the upcoming FilmOut festival featuring the best in LGBT cinema.