With the 41st Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) kicking off tonight, all eyes are on the Egyptian capital as stars descend from all around the world. However, only one such star will be honored with the Faten Hamama Excellence Award at the festival’s opening ceremony, and that is Egyptian actor Menna Shalaby. The award is named after the iconic Egyptian actor who was also referred to as the Lady of the Arab Screen.
Shalaby — who stars in the special video created by Vogue Arabia in collaboration with CIFF to champion Arab women in the film industry — will be awarded for her remarkable achievements in acting. Commenting on the choice of Shalaby for the award CIFF President Mohamed Hefzy stated that “only a small number of actors deserve to be honored with a prize that bears the name of the Lady of the Arab Screen.”
Vogue Arabia caught up with the famed actor to know more about her thoughts on gender inequality and discrimination in the film industry.
As a female actor, what did working on this project to support women in the Arab film industry mean to you?
Of course, I am honored to participate and support such projects which are also related to the industry that I am a part of. We have many skilled females who are not given the right opportunities.
Do you feel that women have the same opportunities as men in the film industry? What should be done to achieve this balance?
Yes, if we are talking about TV where women have lead TV shows for the past few years. However, in the film industry, there’s still a long way to go to be able to give the same answer, because we have this dominant idea that a film is led by a man and that people will only watch films starring leading men. Additionally, filmmakers continue to be biased toward male crew members behind the camera, even though there are many skilled women who can work the same jobs.
It may take time for this balance to occur, like in television, especially since more and more women are proving themselves in the field.
What are your wishes for the Arab cinema?
The Arab film industry has been notably developing, especially in the last seven years. The biggest proof of this is the four Arab films that have competed in the Oscars, the most important international competition, during the last five years for the Best Foreign-Language Film Award, which has never happened before. This confirms the rise of the Arab film industry’s status internationally. The other factor is the high rise in film revenues, even after taking the inflation into consideration.
In my opinion, Arab cinema needs greater risks from filmmakers and producers by storming the unprecedented genres, such as science fiction and 3D films. Taking risks is the only way to discover, and undoubtedly achieve great developments. I am sure we have the abilities and skills to achieve this.