Interview with Tarik Saleh: “My films reflect my deepest feelings towards Egypt”

– You first made a film on politics which is “Confidential Cairo” and then you approached the region in your film “Boy From Heaven”, why did you choose these two generally divergent themes?

– I do not consider myself a political filmmaker or an activist. My job is to find the truth in the stories. When I find it, it becomes political since there are always people who refuse to show the true side of a story. This means that I become a political filmmaker by coincidence despite the fact that, sincerely, if I had done romantic comedy, I would certainly have the possibility of returning to Egypt with my children instead of being deprived of it for years.

– Being a filmmaker and an immigrant at the same time, how important is that for you as a director?

– Definitely. Being from a migratory experience or simply being a migrant always constitutes, according to the experience of notable directors in the world, one more point for producing works that appeal to the general public through our stories and our very different experience. a private citizen.

In this sense, I very well remember Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola as great filmmakers and children of immigrants. The latter, for example, was able to tell the story of the American dream in his film “The Godfather”, simply because he is aware of what it means to be an immigrant family. He lived through the struggle to build a decent life. In fact, when an individual carries within him this diversity, which constitutes a richness, and even the pains that go with it too, he unquestionably has a different outlook on the society in which he lives or grew up.

Similarly, when we are too proud of our origins without being aware of the reason, without the humility that must go with it, and above all without having accomplished anything, we defend a certain belonging because it rather allows certain privileges, so we should be ashamed.

Personally, I don’t have that feeling. I am always attached to specific places, particular places that mean a lot to me like Alexandria, Cairo, Casablanca and other corners of the world for which I have so many feelings.

– Your works are marked by the recomposition of space with a certain freedom. In your film “Le Caire confidential”, you represented Cairo through Casablanca. Thus, in “The Cairo Conspiracy”, this time you represented the Egyptian capital from Istanbul. Similarly, you represented Al-Azhar in the Süleymaniye mosque, is this a choice?

– I am condemned never to set foot in Egypt again. For this, this representation is only a translation of my deepest feelings towards my origins as a director. Besides, I was and I still am obsessed with shooting films in Egypt, which clearly marks my origins and especially in Cairo, which is still close to my heart. Indeed, I believe that this is what pushed me to reproduce Cairo in Casablanca and then in Istanbul.

To do this, I set out to conquer every avenue that could be Cairo in my film. For their part, Moroccan viewers have fun finding hints of their city in my films despite the fact that in terms of production, it was not easy.

Regarding the film “Le Caire confidential”, the shooting coincided with the birth of my first daughter, an important moment in my life. I didn’t want to venture out, that’s why I opted for the city of Casablanca, which is close to my heart, as an open-air set. This adventure reminds me of the experience of Federico Fellini, who managed to recreate his hometown in other places.

For “The Cairo Conspiracy”, I was aware of the fact that I couldn’t shoot it in Cairo. So I decided to create a fictional version of Al-Azhar in Istanbul. It was going to be shot in Morocco but the conditions put in place during the pandemic did not allow it. This is why we chose Turkey for the facilities we could have in terms of filming despite the Covid-19 and we reproduced Al-Azhar in the Süleymaniye mosque in Istanbul, which fascinated me from the first sight. .

– In your cinematographic journey, you have tackled themes that we don’t tackle every day, do you see that cinema constitutes a space for the filmmaker to express himself on complex questions?

– As a filmmaker, I take the side of the human, especially at a time when many people are fond of conspiracies, this magical thought, especially in our Arab region. It’s funny to believe that people in power are powerful, when sometimes they themselves can be orchestrated by those around them. There are always failures of leadership, failures of governance, so if there is a conspiracy, we recognize that there is a failure behind it.

In my work as a director, I try to say that our leaders are ultimately human beings like us. They get carried away, they have an excess of zeal, an uprising can be provoked, but, often, one is not eliminated by his frontal enemy but by his close friend. This is, for me, the most important message in this film which is to show how the character of security Ibrahim does not stand against the Muslim Brotherhood in the first place, but against his superior, who is lawless, a psychopath who cannot reconcile his collaborators. It is interesting to analyze the perception of things that someone who is hated by everyone can have, even in his entourage, which obviously includes those who are far from fond of him.

Interview with Tarik Saleh: “My films reflect my deepest feelings towards Egypt”