His film Cairo exit was the talk of the town in Egypt this year, due to its censorhip. In this interview director Heshman Issawi talks about the censorship which hit his film when it was released and gives a picture of the current situation in Egypt. Although it is banned in Egypt, this hasn’t stopped Cairo exit from being screened abroad and from taking part in international festivals, whether in Dubai, Tribeca, Munich or France.
Your film is beautiful and shows a different side to the Egypt we have come to know a little about through TV series. Your film was censored at the Luxor festival…
That’s right. The screenplay was rejected. We decided to shoot without waiting for authorisation. Afterwards, they asked for some changes to the new screenplay. They wanted us to take out any reference to Christianity. They also asked us to change the scene in which the girl prostitutes herself, as well as other changes, and we refused. The title bothered them too.
How did you come up with the idea for the film ? And why is the girls’ family Christian and not Muslim ?
I wrote the story while I was abroad. The idea has nothing to do with the fact that a Muslim falls in love with a Christian girl but is to say that poverty concerns everyone.
I showed the Christian population because I know some of them. And nobody talks about them. The Christain population is absent in cinema.
What is the current situation for artists and filmmakers after the revolution ?
Some people have been affected and others have benefited from it. Many documentaries were made. Anyone who owned a camera made a film out of it. As for me, we finished shooting 20 days before the revolution broke out.
Would you be able to make the same film today ?
I would make the same one, but without that, as in, the revolution, the problems are still there, you know. It’s impossible for problems which go back 60 years to change like that, suddenly. The revolution broke the fear barrier. There is also a certain freedom of expression which didn’t exist before. Otherwise in daily life problems have got worse. Poverty too. The revolutopn won’t solve socio-economic problems. And as they say, it doesn’t belong to us but to the next generation.
Is your life now in Egypt or in the US ?
My life is between the two countries. I have a new film project on the subject of return. It’s the story of a man who comes back in search of his roots and his identity, looking for his mother with whom he lost contact years back. His quest will bring him to discover Egypt. He sees Egypt as he has never known it and as people don’t know it.