Brief interview with the director of A Leaf Bishara Shoukry (Egypt, 2018). A Leaf won Jury award for the Best Director in the competition of Drama SPIFF World Cup of Genre Cinema 2020.
SPIFF: What is your most vivid movie memory? Why and when have you decided to become filmmaker?
BS: I was 5 years old when I saw a film for the first time. It was at the only cinema in my hometown Luxor. I was inspired by the experience and soon after I made my own “films” by cutting out photos and pictures from magazines and arranging them in a scroll. I use colour cellophane and made shadow puppets. A few years later I became interested in Howard Hawks, he was the first director I looked up. Fred Zinnemann then Francis Ford Coppola were other directors I became interested in.By the time I completed my cinema studies in Egypt I had yet to see a film by Tarkosvky. Then I watched his films and realized that cinema was more than a medium of communication it can be a place to explore the self.
SPIFF: At SPIFF, movies are divided by genre. What is your favorite and why?
BS: Drama. Aside from traditional narratives I am interested in unconventional and experimental films. That type of cinema can be stylized and I like visual lyricism, I’m engaged when I see visual sequences that tie shots together with dynamic composition.
SPIFF: How did you come up with the idea for your film “A Leaf”?
BS: I wrote a feature length script and it was well received by the readers, however I had to make a “promo” or a pilot to get it financed, so I decided to make a short film with the same aesthetic as the feature script and at the same time it expresses the feeling that my start in cinema and that time is running out of my hands.
SPIFF: Can you please list advantages and disadvantages of working on short films?
BS: One of the benefits of a short film is its condensed. If you are outside the main stream, making unconventional and experimental films, the audience can immerse themselves to that for 20 or 30 minutes and not for a longer time. But one of the primary issues of short film is the lack of funding or access to specialized or skilled labour. Begging or asking for favours is a common production strategy. Crew members see the production as a training project rather than professional work and that in my opinion is incorrect. Jorge Luis Borges never wrote long form through out his career.
SPIFF: Please, list your favourite directors and films. Why do you prefer them?
BS: My favourite director is Tarkovsky in Mirror. That film gives me permission to run wild with my imagination. It has the type of structure that I feel is very grounding for me.The second filmmaker is the Egyptian director Shady Abdel Salam in his only feature length film “The Night Of Counting Years.” It’s a one-of-a-kind film is the world of cinema. In my mind its the most complete work since Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.Kieslowski in “Le Double Vie de Veronique,” his visual language was so captivating that it’s impossible to tell that story in an other medium.The fourth director is Ingmar Bergman in The Seventh Seal. The beauty of the film is in the abstraction of the game of chess. By letting go of all the pieces except the queen he is telling us something about being. Or is it the fact the queen survives is a symbol of this metaphor.The fifth filmmaker is Emir Kusturica in “The Time of the Gypsies” because he’s magical realist approach, his wild passion for life, and his approach to sharing his home place.
SPIFF: What would you like to tell the audience of your film in Russia at SPIFF?
BS: I would rather ask the audience to: One, do not be so concerned with what is happening that you may miss seeing the picture and two, do not be so adamant to understand my film. I don’t intellectualize in my work, it is not a primary tool. Rest assured this will only last 18 minutes.