A Sense of Direction



Film and Life with



Abou Ouf

By Francesca Sullivan

Mariam Abou Ouf is a young Egyptian director who has already earned a serious reputation in her short career, with movies Hekayet we Benensaha starring Leyla Elwi, Bebo w’Basheer, and several episodes of the TV drama Lahazat Hariga, as well as contributing to the internationally acclaimed Eighteen Days, about the 2011 revolution. Her new TV series Embratoreyet Meen? will hit our screens this Ramadan, and looks to be her most ambitious project to date. Cairo West Magazine caught up with Abou Ouf on set.

CWM: Who has been the greatest creative influence in your life?

MA: I come from a family of artistic people: actors, singers and movie lovers, so films have been a part of my life ever since I can remember. But if I had to name one influence and inspiration it would be director Mohamed Khan. I love his movies, and he is actually playing a character in this series, which is great!

What is the best advice you ever received?

It was from director Sherif Arafa who told me, “When you’re directing a movie take as many opportunities to sit down as you can, and conserve your energy!”

Which film or series has been the most challenging to date?

This one, for three reasons. Firstly, it has a very large cast that includes small children, and we are shooting scenes with lots of family members in the same room. Including five-year-olds in a scene is always going to be a challenge. Secondly all the locations are real, not studio sets, which is unusual for a TV drama series. But despite the logistical difficulties it was important to shoot in actual places because Cairo itself is an important ‘character’ and part of the drama. The third reason is because I have a lot of personal feelings regarding issues that come up in this story, and I’m having to put them on one side and be totally objective as the director.

How do you see the current state of movie-making in Egypt?

Leaving commercial cinema aside, I actually think there has been a shift in a positive direction when it comes to independent films. There is currently an emergence of young film directors whose concern is to create films about issues important to them, not just pandering to whatever the public seems to want. My next project will be an independent production which I am currently working on with a co-writer.

How do you expect Embratoreyet Meen to be received?

I’m actually a little nervous about how the audience is going to accept it, because it contains experiences that everyone has lived through and will have an opinion about. There are things that some people might object to. But I believe in being confrontational when it comes to my professional life. I really hate it when Egyptians try to gloss over uncomfortable truths or hide our flaws.

Is there an actor you would love to have a chance to work with?

Hend Sabry was on my list but now I have been fortunate enough to have work with her. Another would be Gamil Ratib, a promising actor from the new generation. And from the past it would have been Faten Hamama.

Which is your favorite movie of all time?

From Egyptian cinema it would have to be Esha’at Hob. From international cinema anything by American director Paul Thomas Anderson, or Spanish director Alexandro Innaritu.

Quick Fire-Round

Favorite holiday location?

The South of France

Favorite cuisine?

My own! Cooking is my hobby.


Most recent book read?

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I’m thinking it would be perfect for a movie re-make transposed to Egypt.

Tune on your mind these days?

Anything by French group Manu Chaw.

Favorite item of clothing?

Jeans and trainers.

Worst habit?

Pet peeve?

People who chew gum noisily.


Aqua de Parma

Biggest extravagance?

Travelling in style!

Guilty pleasure?

Food – something like a chocolate fondant.

Success is…..?

Achieving the goals you set yourself.

Happiness is…..?

A combination of success and being surrounded by the people you love.

Optimist or pessimist?

I’m a realist.

Brains or beauty?

Definitely brains.  

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