In his latest movie "Barra El Manhag” that took part in the first edition of Saudi Arabia's Red Sea International Film Festival, Egyptian director Amr Salama recalls childhood memories with the story of a 13-year-old orphan who wins his peers' respect when he courageously enters an abandoned house nearby his school. There, he meets an old man hiding, and the two build a friendship that takes them on a journey of self-exploration.
Maged El-Kedwany, Ahmed Amine, Ahmed Khaled Saleh, and child Omar Sherif starred in the movie.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Salama said his movie "is an emotional story." "I hope it could please the audience. It’s inspired by true events that I lived, and always wanted to tell."
Speaking about his childhood interests, Salama says: "I think it's mainly related to psychological reasons. I believe childhood is characterized by an innocence that ensures easy communication. I also love the maturity theme, during which a person grows and turns from a child into a man."
The Egyptian director chose Majed al-Kadwani to star in “Barra El Mahag” alongside the kid Omar Sherif. "I thought about Majed for this role since I had the idea of the movie 10 years ago. And after I wrote the script, I realized he was the best fit for the character, but choosing the child was challenging, but after seeing many kids I eventually settled on Omar Sherif," explains Salama.
Although he wrote the script of his film, Salama denies his bias to the "screenwriter cinema," saying: "It doesn't necessarily mean that I support the scriptwriter cinema, it's just a coincidence. I might have many ideas that I would like to write and direct, but that doesn't mean I won't direct works of other screenwriters. I am an open-minded person, and I directed many productions by other screenwriters like 'Taye'’ and ‘Bimbo,’ scheduled to screen soon on Shahid platform."
The young director said he was delighted to partake in the Red Sea Film Festival, noting that "a film festival held in Saudi Arabia is a major step for cinema in the Arab world in general.
"This will lead to a significant boost in the Arabic cinematic and cultural scene. Saudi Arabia has a great cinema audience and I expect a new generation of young Saudi filmmakers who will uplift the Arabic cinema industry within the few coming years."
Salama has recently entered a production partnership with screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzi, however, he said his works won’t be exclusively produced by his company. "This doesn't mean I will be working exclusively with this company, and it won't necessarily produce all my works. Yes, the production experience is tough, and I am not sure I can handle it perfectly, but I am learning a lot from it, as it makes me see the direction from a different perspective. This will be a good experience even if it seemed challenging in the beginning."
Many of Salama's works have been streamed on digital platforms including "Paranormal" on Netflix, and Bimbo, scheduled to be aired son on Shahid. The young director does not fear the streaming platforms' experience, stressing that "such platforms will never replace cinema.
"The same thing was said when the television emerged, and then with the satellite and digital streaming outlets. The charm of cinema will never fade, but the digital platforms offer a different experience. Some stories are better seen on these platforms, others fit the cinema theater, while others are television material. The choices are many and this would contribute to the prosperity of the cinema industry."