Follow Vogue Arabia

A Chance Encounter in Cannes Changed This Egyptian Architect’s Career

Actor Shahira Fahmy

Shahira Fahmy in 2016. Courtesy of Shahira Fahmy

Shahira Fahmy is a name already circulating in Arab culture – she’s a well-known architect with projects across Europe and the Middle East, and now she can add Cannes red carpet hero to her ever-growing CV. Vogue Arabia discovers this rising talent, who oscillates between drawing board and film set, breaking fresh ground on the art of being the right person in the right place, at just the right time.

Actor Shahira Fahmy

Shahira Fahmy wears Imane Ayissi and Roger Vivier on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival 2017. Photographed by Eric Catarina

Fahmy’s résumé is far from the norm for Arab actors bursting onto the scene: she studied at Cairo and Harvard Universities (where she also took classes in acting) and was a visiting professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, after all. An impromptu talent scouting by director Hong Sang-soo saw Fahmy’s career take an unexpected turn when she was cast in his latest film, La caméra de Claire, which also stars Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert. The role made Fahmy change course: “I’m focusing solely on acting at the moment but I have architectural projects in ground development. Like seeds you leave behind, they surprise every now and then with their offspring.”

You need to be in the moment, not a moment further nor a moment earlier

The chance meeting with Sang-soo at a café happened when Fahmy found her way to Cannes last year during the film festival. “He listened to my architectural story and my wish to act. He shared that they are shooting a film in Cannes and if something comes up they will call me. A few hours later, I was asked to come on set and told that I will be shooting that day,” she says. After arriving on location, in what must have felt like a whirlwind of opportunity, Fahmy describes how Huppert arrived, and how the two of them shot a scene in French. “You need to be in the moment, not a moment further nor a moment earlier,” Fahmy states.

Actor Shahira Fahmy

Shahira Fahmy on set with Isabelle Huppert in Cannes shooting La caméra de Claire by Hong Sang-soo. Courtesy of Shahira Fahmy

Within a year, Fahmy took her first steps on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet, wearing a dress by Paris-based sustainable fashion brand Imane Ayissi, shoes by Roger Vivier, and jewelry by Hervé van der Straeten. From that moment, Fahmy says, “doors opened like magic.” Next year, the Egyptian actor will feature in Yomeddine by Abu Bakr Shawky, for which the director received an honorable mention at the IWC Filmmaker Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Fahmy’s list of favorite films may just prove to be a compass for her future filmography: “I love many films! The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino, Julieta by Pedro Almodóvar, The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson, and The Day After by Hong Sang-soo.” Watch this space.

How Sheikha Aisha Al-Thani raised the bar on the Cannes red carpet

View All
Vogue Collection