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Cannes Film Festival: Morad Mostafa Talks African Representation in Egyptian Cinema in I PROMISE YOU PARADISE



In I Promise You Paradise, and as part of the Critic’s Week, Director Morad Mostafa presents a short film about Eissa, a 17-year-old African migrant in Egypt who following a violent incident, strives to beat the clock to save his loved ones no matter what it takes.

AM: How did you prepare yourself creatively for the film?
MM: This film is a continuation of what I started in my first film Hannah Ward that dealt with a day in the life of the Sudanese Hanana, which are stories about non-Egyptians, specifically African immigrants in Egypt. I always saw that Egyptian cinema had not paid attention to these topics and this was striking to me because I am a son of a popular area in the heart of Cairo called Ain Shams. The area is known to have a large concentration of Africans and it was a great motivation for me to approach Egyptian society with different cinematic eyes with that of African immigrants.

I started thinking about this film two years ago, it was the idea of my producer Sawsan Youssef. We wrote the script together and went to many workshops to develop the script, including Berlin Talents in Durban. The main driver of making the movie is a 17-year-old African immigrant boy trying to get out of a predicament to help his Egyptian lover. It is a story of love and sacrifice.

AM: What were some of the challenges you faced on set?
MM: The biggest challenge was filming in only three days, it was very difficult because the film had a long duration and many filming locations in three different governorates in Egypt. And there was also an obstacle on the artistic level which is that I haven’t previously told stories with male protagonists since female stories dominated my three previous films.

AM: And why this particular cast?
MM: Working with non-professional actors is always a challenge that is dear to my heart. All the film’s heroes are real people who have never acted before. Non-professional actors have something fresh and new and they play their roles with extreme spontaneity.

AM: In your opinion what makes a short movie more impactful than a feature film?
MM: Short films are easier and faster to receive, a short film is a bomb of emotions compressed into a short time. This condensation make you dive into the depths of a story and the characters faster and more effectively. The general misconception about short films is that they are merely short versions of feature films. In my opinion, this is where the real risk lies, because you always need to invent unique ways to attract the audience's attention, as it is a fun game between the director and the audience

AM: Would you say this movie tries to change the perception about immigrants?
MM: As a filmmaker it’s not my role to be a societal reformer. I create cinematic narratives that contain feelings and interesting stories, ask questions, and put the audience in a field of thought.