Euphoria Magazine Cover Sept. 2010>> interesting experiment: Came up with a CRAZY idea of shooting “my own self” (notice the remote control in my hand in all shots) for the interview and cover of Euphoria Sept. 2010😉 it all started when I was thinking how to best show up in an interview while I am slowly but surely having a foot behind the cameras as well as in-front….
A One Man Show
Interviewed By: Esraa Hegazy
Art Directed by: Khaled Abol Naga & Esraa Hegazy
Photographed by: Khaled Abol Naga
Styled By: Zahra El Sherbini
Shot on location at: EL Sawy Cultural Wheel
Special Thanks to: Photographer Mohamed Gabr, Mr. Abdel Moneim El Sawy, Essam Nasr, Noha Fekry
Khaled Abol Naga gives a whole new definition to what an entertainer is and should be. As he would describe it in his own words, he wears many hats. We know him as the talented actor, others view him as the human & social rights advocate & UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador while now, he has added “producer” to the list of hats and soon “director” will follow. In an exclusive interview and a one of a kind self-photographed shoot, Khaled Abol Naga opens up to euphoria’s Managing Editor Esraa Hegazy about his views on a revolutionary Egyptian Cinema and his latest film “Microphone”.
For the past month, Khaled Abol Naga and I have been exchanging emails, texts and phone calls preparing for our September cover shoot. We wanted something big, interesting, new and fresh but what Khaled had in store for us was beyond our imagination. “I want to make a self-photographed shoot, what do you think?” Khaled asked me one day with zeal that was easily sensed through the phone. While we had our fair share of concerns in the beginning, the idea was instantly sold and a week later, we were at a stage at El Sawy Cultural Wheel near the early hours of dawn watching Khaled literally live up to the title; a one man show.
As we sit in his car right outside the venue, waiting for people to clear out so he wouldn’t be eaten alive, we talk for an hour (more like me interviewing him than actually talking). And I realize, Khaled Abol Naga is nothing short of a true professional. His level of dedication, passion, innovation and punctuality is something truly to be admired, something truly rare in this industry and something worth writing about for making our job, as journalists, easier. There’s no wonder why he was handpicked by director Daoud Abdel Said‘s hit film in 2001 “Mowaten We Mokhber We Harami” (A Citizen, an Inspector and a Theif). From that point on, his name was linked to some of the most successful films including Sahar El Layali (Sleepless Nights), Fi Shaket Masr El Gedida (In the Heliopolis Flat) and One-Zero, to name a few, all the way to the internationally acclaimed indie flick Heliopolis.
“I was watching Heliopolis lately and I felt very proud at making such an independent and subtle film,” Khaled admitted. “This in itself is a career highlight of mine because it reassures me that I’m in this field for the passion of film-making before anything. Every actor needs this kind of reassurance,” he continues.
It’s a surprise when we say that Khaled wasn’t really passionate about acting when he was young as most artists. His true passion is engineering, something that sources have confirmed he was a true genius at back in his day as a student with a Master’s Degree in Spacecraft Design from the UK. But it was one night where he attended a lecture about theatre by Dr. Mahmoud El Lozy, his mentor, where he completely fell in love with acting, “I knew at this moment that I will be an actor and that it will be fulfilling. I knew how sacred an actor’s job can be,” he says as he explains that now, Engineering is his hobby, while acting is his job and passion.
“We grow as actors by experience, not by shooting films, but in between making them, by meeting global audiences at festivals for example, hearing their opinions and so on.” Khaled says that an actor truly matures if he builds his career wealth by real life experiences that to anywhere he/she might go, they’re bound by their history.
Khaled’s passion has led him to achieving so many in the Egyptian Cinema by adding innovation to the art of filmmaking, “We’re on a brink of a revolution,” he says. “Frances Ford Coppola said one day that filmmaking will not only be available to professionals but for everybody anywhere and this is what he believes is happening now, there are a lot of creative juices here in Egypt & the Arab world, a lot of social turmoil and injustice and stories to talk about.”
People are more aware now and given the right technology, they will create brilliant films” he says. That’s another reason why Khaled believed so much in first time director Ahmed Abdalla, director of Heliopolis and Khaled’s new film Microphone also with Producer Mohamed Hefzy. And last year we saw the critically acclaimed Heliopolis garner more success than any other Indie film in a while, winning and being honored at film festivals all over the world.
Khaled is truly on to something with Hefzy, Transforming how we view Egyptian Cinema today. “We don’t know how to market movies in Egypt besides the comedy and romance. I think that people are bored of cliché films every summer or Eid and they need movies like Heliopolis andMicrophone,” he says. And so, Khaled along with Producer Mohamed Hefzy, actors like Menna Shalabi, Hend Sabry, Basma, Asser Yassin and others, created the company “Team Cairo”. As described by Khaled it is “the umbrella or pool of services offering what’s missing in Egyptian cinema and what’s lagging between it and the industries abroad.”
Team Cairo will offer representations and agencies for talents in the entertainment industry, something that will make finding work easier, especially if a foreign film requests an Egyptian actor/actress. It will also bridge the gap between the industry here and abroad by networking with producers and even co-producing certain projects. “It’s a shame that with a country like Egypt that has a very rich film history we didn’t pick up on where the industry went abroad,” Khaled says.
“When people say that, Years ago, it was a beautiful era, that’s not silly talking. The Egyptian classics aren’t made anymore.” He points out that our real problem is not having a structure like India for example which is a hub for film-making but our industry is living in a bubble with movies targeting only the local market seasons. “That’s why our films are not exportable…” he says as he believes that as much as commercial movies are important for the capital return cycle, real and serious movies are important for art and international recognition as well as untapped foreign film markets. And that’s the backbone objective of Team Cairo, creating exportable films and adding missing layers of an established industry starting with his latest film Microphone.
Directed by Ahmed Abdalla, produced by Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic and Khaled Abol Naga himself, Microphone uncovers Alexandria and its underground art scene. “Microphone is big time about the UNDERGROUND scene in Alexandria, All kinds of underground music and arts, even Graffiti young artists, there is a new, very rich and strong youth movement in Alex. You cannot believe it until you go underground with them, and that’s what happened to us,” Khaled explains enthusiastically. “Ahmad Abdalla wanted to document this underground movement with the help of the artists themselves that no one knows about, even the artist’s own parents in some cases, yet its right under everybody’s nose!” he continues. Not only is the film revolutionary by being filmed with a new range of cameras and because of its appealing storyline, it will guarantee its popularity at film festivals but commercially successful as well. Over the next few months, the film will be featured in Toronto, Vancouver, London, Carthage, Dubai, and many others. “We will gradually but surely stay away from cliché films, audiences want to see good experiments,” Khaled says.
Khaled has dire need to document what’s hidden beneath the layers of Egyptian society and all its problems. He was recently asked to watch a low budget play, called Bussy, tackling society’s deepest gender issues & problems from sexual harassments to the veil, to Female Genital Mutilation and any other social or parental pressures in a form of monologues based on true stories. Khaled was aware of Bussy, a voice for young men and women, but he never expected that it would need drastic theatrical attention. “Honestly, it was a gem in a trash bin, they were performing outside of theaters and in parking lots, no one gave them a chance to use any stage for their boldness,” he says. So with producer Mohamed Hefzy, they decided to give it light, direct and document it for future generations. “This is what this country needs, a voice telling true stories without the dramatic self or imposed censorship intervention. The history of art teaches us that those who were bold enough to speak out freely are those who made classics that lived forever.”
Being the Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, Khaled is exposed to the many troubles of the world which he also wishes to document for awareness. Making films documenting the reality of people living with AIDS, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and children in the streets, is something he’s keen on doing. While many actors would think they have no time for being humanitarians, Khaled realizes its benefits “Social work is very important because it gives you so much for in return. You face tragedies and mishaps that give you an insight of people’s aspirations and real life stories. And it really puts my feet on the ground instead of living in my own stardom bubble.” Being grounded has helped Khaled a lot become active in his society following the major “change” campaigns, out of fear for what society has become, and out of belief in the possibility of a better future.
What are your greatest fears?
It’s the fears of the people of the planet really; there is a very uncomfortable air of segregation between nations, religions, cultures, even sects within cultures and sub-cultures. It’s a shame on those who take such decisions of segregation between their own people in the name of “state security” for example instead of integrating people and promoting a more human set of ethics. But there is hope. I believe there is a great chance that the people learn to trust each other rather than wait to be fed information and little by little those monsters will end up affecting less and less people until one fine day the true will of a collective consciousness triumphs.
You rarely give TV interview appearances, why is that?
“I decided to save my time and energy for making art more; making films, reading or growing as an artist and as a film maker. TV has become such a time consuming field for both the makers and audience that it eats away lifetimes, there is too much TV, too little ART in it. If I’d make a TV program it would be about that.”
The name Khaled Abol Naga has been around for quite some time now and it’s getting bigger by the minute, even bigger than other actors who release films every summer, in your opinion, why aren’t you following the trend of “summer films” with only one lead actor?
“The choices I make are a result of a learning process; it’s a vital part of being an artist is to keep changing and becoming something else, surprise yourself even. We must mature as artists or else we stop being true to our art, in terms of the business, I learned that I can make a bigger name and be loved and wanted by vast audiences by keeping my choices new & fresh and non-conventional but above all by being honest and true in my choices, a lot of myths confuse artists judgments in this field, specially the stars! But in Cinema the audience will always have the final say, not anyone else. You can not fool all the people all the time, so you might as well not fool them at all anytime, and hope for the people to recognize your honest and true art, and they do in the end, trust me.”