Jumpstarting 2014 with La Moakhza, film producer Mohamed Hefzy reveals his tastes and secret proclivities.
By Lydia Schoonderbeek
It would not be too far-fetched to call Mohamed Hefzy a modern-day Renaissance man, a man of many talents. Some label him a scriptwriter, a producer, an engineer, others see him as a film visionary, but more than anything else, Mohamed Hefzy is Egypt’s answer to reenergizing the film industry. For more than a decade, he has created and produced films for an audience ready to embrace and explore contemporary culture. Sitting in a glass-walled meeting room overlooking the Nile, surrounded by postmodern furniture is where I get a chance to meet with this soft-spoken man of film as he explains his credo, “I prefer working with passion,” he proclaims in a gentle voice.
Hefzy’s Film Clinic has, over the past eight years, developed a wealth of scriptwriters and more importantly produced award-winning films such as Asma, and Tahrir 2011. The film mogul has also released films such as La Moakhza, Villa 69, Rags & Tatters, Microphone, and Sameer & Shaheer & Baheer to name but a few.
A passion for writing as a young boy is what first ignited Hefzy’s love for film, a love that was further cultivated by the encouragement of Mr. Bob Marshall, Hefzy’s high school drama teacher. As a student, Hefzy lived in London where he attended Brunel University, which is where he decided to pursue studying film along with his Engineering degree. An entirely self-taught script-writer, Hefzy developed his writing technique by reading and watching classic films from around the world, and the rest is history.
CEM: Tell us a little about how Film Clinic came to be
MH: It all began in 2006, I was very much in demand as a scriptwriter and I didn’t have the time to write. At the time, actors and producers didn’t take risks with unknown writers, as there wasn’t much room for experimenting in terms of financing and executing a film. So I developed a solid network of scriptwriters through workshops and created a solution that was lacking in the industry. Scriptwriting is not taught; it is not a craft. It’s being able to express what you want, and you have to be good at psychoanalysis, as you need to breakdown each character that you are creating. Most times, you’re assuming five different characters all at once, you need to research and look into the backgrounds of these characters, and that’s where the Film Clinic’s workshops come in to help scriptwriters.
Yes of course through friendship, I have remained friends with a lot of the actors. For example I am now great friends with Asser Yassin, Ahmed Fahmi, Hesham Maged, and Sheko, we have worked on numerous films together. So what essentially started as work eventually continued as a great friendship.
Have you dealt with any drama queens in the industry?
Drama queens! I’ve dealt with a lot of hormones in this industry. I’ve gone into actresses’ trailers expected to be greeted with love, instead I get screamed at because the makeup isn’t making her look right, or there have been tears, just a lot of tears. That’s why I like working with passionate talents, such as Khaled Aboul Naga, he isn’t scared to try new things. If you look at Villa 69, he plays a character that is much older than his actual age, you don’t find talent like that who is willing to take risks and extend his range.
What genre do you feel most drawn to at the moment?
Comedy, in the time of crisis people need comedy in their lives.
You have worked successfully with many well-known directors, are there any that you have a special rapport with?
I tend to work with upcoming directors such as Amr Salama or Ahmed Abdallah, whom have now become international hits because of Microphone and Rags and Tatters.
Although your films have been acclaimed both locally and abroad, and have been the recipients of many industry awards, is there a single film that you are particularly proud of?
I can never just mention one, I don’t have a clear favorite but if I have to mention the top five they would be: Sameer & Shaheer & Baheer, La Moakhza, Microphone, Asma, and Tahrir 2011.
Your latest film, La Moakhza, was only released on the 22nd of January this year, but is already breaking box office records. Did you anticipate such a response?
No, I didn’t it. It over exceeded our expectations, as we haven’t had a big hit for a couple of years.
What are the best and worst decisions you’ve ever made?
I decided subconsciously to put all my time and effort into making my dream come true professionally. It was the best decision in terms of becoming a producer, which in turn has taken a toll on my personal life.
What rules do you live by?
I try not to kill or steal! No seriously, I’m considered to be a very normal person in this industry, I do like to escape every so often by travelling abroad and my weekends are sacred to spending it by the Red Sea, where I get to read and catch up on at least three scripts that have been given to me. On every new production I always work with people who are passionate about their art. And the rule that I should abide by but don’t is being able to see my family a lot more, I don’t see them very often.
What was your dream job as a kid?
I didn’t have one, I’m living it now.
What things / people / roles have contributed most to your success?
My assistant, Ola and in general my team that I work with, especially my head of development, we are such a close-knit team which is the main reason we are doing so well, that includes The Film Clinic family, we are all such a good and close unit.
As Mother’s Day is coming soon, what women are you inspired by and why?
I’m inspired by leading females in our society who have managed to make their way in men lead environments or industries. Any woman who can carve her way and have a strong character in this society is a woman that would be aspired to.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a production of a new film called A to B, which is a road trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut. This film has a lot of heart, and hopefully has a wider appeal to audiences in the MENA region.
First music album you bought? Bros
Recurring dream? It’s usually a nightmare, to do with vertigo stuck up high, I’ve had this dream since I was a child.
Guilty pleasure? Collecting single malt whisky, which is becoming an obsession.
Who would play you in a film? Nobody in particular, I’m an average Joe.
What makes you laugh? People when they’re most serious, or obvious stupidity. I enjoy black and eccentric humor such as, Eddie Izzard and the movie I produced La Moakhza.
Favorite destination? The Greek Islands.
Dream lunch date? Rose Al-Yusuf.
Brains or beauty? Both, I’m greedy.
Optimist or pessimist? Realist.
Best piece of advice? My dad once told me, if you’re able to assess your capabilities you can always work to exceed them and essentially not get yourself into trouble.
Last movie you’ve watched? American Hustle
Building you would like to live in? I would love to live somewhere remote, in a suburb. Ideally, it would be my friend’s house, Ahmed Kassem’s, its fantastic.
Last book you’ve read? The Shock Doctrine Book by Naomi Klein and I’m never going to read 50 Shades of Grey.
Being able to come close to the goals you set for yourself.
To appreciate little moments, as happiness is not consistent.