Mohamed Hefzy • Producer, Film Clinic
by Valerio Caruso
- At Cannes, Cineuropa sat down with Mohamed Hefzy, an Egyptian producer and the owner of Film Clinic, to discuss potential co-productions between Europe and Egypt
At the Cannes Film Festival, Cineuropa met up with Egyptian producer and the owner of Film Clinic Mohamed Hefzy to discuss potential co-productions between Europe and Egypt.
Cineuropa: At Cannes, you presented a line-up containing several films; can you tell us more about the movies in development?
Mohamed Hefzy: One is Arab Idol, by Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now [+see also:
film profile], Omar). It’s the true, inspirational tale of how Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf became a golden boy from Gaza. The other is the Gaza-set dramedy Catch the Moon, by Palestinian director Sameh Zoabi, about a young Palestinian named Halim, whose father whimsically commits to providing him and his future bride with a Mercedes-Benz as a dowry, only to realise it’s impossible due to the current Israeli blockade.
Are you extending your activities beyond Egypt?
Yes, Film Clinic has just announced its collaboration with Fortress Capital Investments in Dubai to establish an Emirati production company named Fortress Film Clinic. This was established in Dubai at the beginning of 2015 and will now collaborate with other production companies to produce, develop and distribute film and TV projects in the Arab and international markets. It will also venture into various media projects and assets.
What would be your advice to European producers who want to enter the Egyptian market?
Obviously, there would have to be a story that is related to or set in Egypt for them to want to enter the Egyptian market in the first place. And I would say work with a good local producer and know the market you are trying to make this film for. I mean, is it for Europe? Because many times, a film that is made for a European audience would not necessarily meet the sensibilities of the Egyptian audience, who do not like films that are minimalist in the way they’re told – and I’m not talking about the niche Egyptian audience; I’m talking about the mass Egyptian audience. They tend to like exaggeration and directness and big stories, and comedies, mostly. So it’s not really the same thing that would necessarily work here, except in those really rare circumstances.
Is it difficult for your films to find a spot at the box office?
Yes. There have been one or two surprises, such as Excuse My French, which did better than most of the mainstream, big, commercial comedies at that time. But yes, most arthouse films do not find an audience. One of the biggest successes was Mohamed Khan’s The Factory Girl [+see also:
film profile], which I didn’t produce, but it was not expected to make what it did, and also ended up taking something like 100,000 or 150,000 admissions in the Middle East, which is very good for this type of film. So yes, it’s not been easy, but we try to find ways to at least get the films released so that you can see them in the cinema sometimes, and their life is extended via a television broadcaster.
Regarding the situation in Egypt, despite the revolution and the crisis, are people still going to the cinema?
Yes: in 2014, there were some record-breaking films – there were three films that set new records at the box office in Egypt, and that’s a good sign.