Yomeddine press conference: Director A B Shawky and producer Dina Emam discuss the blurring of reality and fiction
In another press conference marked by absence, Yomeddine was without its two stars Rady Gamel and Ahmed Abdelhafiz – who play Beshay and Obama respectively – due to visa complications. One a middle-aged man from a leprosy colony, the other a young boy, neither had left Egypt before. Director A B Shawky cited “bureaucratic issues”, as the crew had sorted their passports but the visa didn’t cover a stop-off in Zurich en route to Cannes. He intended that the pair would visit a festival in the future.
Shawky’s producer Dina Emam spoke about how their professional and personal lives blended throughout the production: “We didn’t start dating until right before production, and that was really hard. This [film] has been the hardest thing of our lives, so marriage will be a piece of cake. We are still together and still working. We complete each other on a personal and professional level”.
The Egyptian-Austrian auteur had originally written the main character based on a woman, but she became too ill when filming started. When he wanted another actor from the colony, “Rady was the first person to walk through the door and had an amazing energy”.
The filmmaker likened the process of finding an actor to play the energetic Nubian boy as similarly fortunate: “We found him hanging round a movie set. It was a miracle”. The performers could not read or write so Shawky encouraged “different ways to memorise the script. We worked around them, rather than them around us”.
The unlikely pair take a hazardous road trip to Beshay’s family, who have long abandoned him. The director noted that “all [Beshay] has is a donkey cart, because he has difficulties travelling on regular transportation. Road movies have a specific charm. They help you to tell a story about a country you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise”.
Why, given the close parallels between the reality of the characters and the actors, did Shawky choose to make a fictional film over a documentary? “You get more control in fiction. I find it really interesting”. Yomeddine means Judgement Day, and for the movie’s creator, it is through this judgement that the characters will achieve equality: “This is the central theme of the film”.
Photo: John Phillips/ Getty Images
Judgement Day (Yomeddine) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read our review of Judgement Day (Yomeddine) here.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from Judgement Day (Yomeddine) here: