Interview with Morad Mostafa, director of Khadiga
Thursday 20 January 2022, by ,
Khadiga, a young mother of 18 lives alone with her baby after her husband left for work in a remote city; in an ordinary day she makes her way through the hustle of Cairo streets to do some visits where she feels uncomfortable with the surroundings.
Is Khadiga based on someone you know? What motivated you to tell her story?
Khadiga is a character we all know, and she exists in all societies in different forms and ways. What prompted me to tell this story is that it is a story that I’d like to tell because it affects me very much and it remained inside my head for years until I decided to be brave and bring it to light because it is a very sensitive story, we are always afraid to speak about, and I was also encouraged because it continues what I started earlier. I see that in my three films. There is a common shocking thing, and this shock kept escalating with me from one film to another, even if the most shocking of them was Khadiga. This originates from the idea of the film itself and the transient event that explodes in the middle of the film. Khadiga is about the journey of a young girl on a very ordinary day, or it seems so, but under the surface lies the volcano. Khadiga, accompanied by her infant child, makes some visits and moves from one place to another amid the noise and crowds of Cairo streets and the social pressure she feels. This event happens and defies all possible interpretations of logic it is an act that simulates feelings more than it simulates the mind. But this was a special challenge for me, how to make a film that is so cruel and shocking and at the same time carries a great deal of humanity and feelings. I always used to watch real people like Khadija on TV or in the newspapers being subjected to such an act that I previously described as defying interpretation, and therefore their maternal reaction to this event was always late, as if they were in another time and place when this happened and they wake up from that shock in hindsight, the volcano can remain molten for years and eventually must erupt due to pressure.
How did you cast the actress who plays her?
I always prefer to work with non-actors, because they are real, they are not trained to a certain method of acting, so their feelings are truer and closer to reality and they speak like their real selves and in a spontaneous way, with focusing on some common feelings between them and the characters of the film because I actually work without scenarios, so I prefer to tell the film so they can understand it more than memorizing it. Malak, the girl who plays Khadija, is not an actress nor has previous experiences, and she was very attractive when I first saw her in the casting; with her eyes that carry so many troubled feelings. She resembles the character very much, she even lives in the same place where I’m telling the story, and when we started the rehearsals which took about two months, I told her about the film and she was greatly affected by it, and I was surprised in front of a camera with her spontaneity and calmness.
How was the shooting process like in the streets of Cairo?
Filming in the streets of Cairo is always difficult and tiring, but it is very interesting for me because it transports you to the current time and place in which you tell your story and creates credibility in expressing the event and documenting the place. Khadiga belongs to the genre of “road movie or city film” and the hustle and bustle of the city helps to increase the pressure factors on the character. Filming in the streets was good and natural and we did not encounter any problems because I was moving in the streets with a small camera and an unpopular girl was carrying a child on her shoulder. This does not draw the attention of passers-by because they prefer star scenes only. On the other hand, I would like to thank the people of the Imbāba area where the film was filmed entirely.
Your last film was also focused on female characters and their distinctive experiences. Can you tell us more about that? What subjects do you like to explore as a filmmaker?
Female characters were always inspiring to me, as I am an only child who has lived with his mother from childhood until recently, and I always heard stories from her about women and viewed the world through her eyes. And this had a great impact on me. Even my first film, Hennet Ward was about a real experience I lived with my mother in a Henna party. I am always interested in topics related to the Egyptian society in recent times, what the simple people suffer from, the social pressure imposed on them, the relations of individuals with each other, their relationship inside their society, and the social and cultural change that has happened in the society recently which appeared greatly in the post-revolution phase, where the Egyptian society was characterized by authentic features and closer to stability, and not as violent as it is at the moment; pressured and full of grudge. This is what I try to look for or tell in my stories, and this little by little coalesces with the concerns and dreams of the current people and affects the viewer, regardless of his nationality or gender. I am sure that we will feel it if we watch the three films at once. It is possible that the films express me personally as well as my thoughts and concerns as a man, even if it is through a story whose heroine is a woman, because in my previous and upcoming films the place, the other characters and the circumstances surrounding the events are a hero besides. I initially had three harsh stories through which I try to question and think about this social change of our ideas and our society, including children and men, not only women, and through those stories, three short films were made that I am proud of, and they were all selected in a great festival such as Clermont-Ferrand Festival.
Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?
There are many short films that I loved in previous years and left an impression on me like: Skin by Guy Nattiv, Da Yie by Anthony Nti, The Christmas Gift by Bogdan Mureșanu. These films have things in common, have strong feelings, and an interesting way of telling, which I love. From Egypt, I love very much the films of my friend, director Sameh Alaa, because they have the same features and I consider them among my favorite films, I am so glad we are from the same generation.
What’s your definition of a good film?
A film that lingers in the audiences’ mind for a while and makes you think and wonder.