The seed of an idea, the hours of writing, the taking of a book and bringing it to the big screen. The synergy behind an unnerving thriller that has become one of the most talked about films to capture our attention this year. Cairo West Magazine met up with the talents behind the film that is packing cinemas citywide.
Read our in-depth interview with Asser Yassin here
What were your first thoughts when you heard you had been cast for the role of Sara in Turab El Mass?
My immediate reaction was to be proud and happy to be part of a Marwan Hamed movie. Sara’s role was new and different for me, but I really liked the script. I worked on preparing for the role by imagining what Sara’s strengths and weaknesses could be.
Did the role present any particular challenges?
One of the biggest challenges I met was preparing for the scene where Sara is violated. I was totally traumatized, it felt an emotional roller-coaster.
What was the key to getting inside your character of Bushra Sera in Turab El Mass?
Bushra Sera is a socialite, she does great charity work, but she has two sides to her. She is also a human trafficker. That’s the dark side of her nature. You do see her vulnerability though when she is put under pressure. I needed to capture how she acts, how she reacts. She is quite an interesting character. She is a worldly woman, she’s been around, she is very well respected, this is where she gets her strength from.
How did you prepare for the role?
It actually started three years ago when the movie was first visualized, so I had all that time to practise. I first read the script three years ago, but when production picked up again she was portrayed in a completely different way. I drew on both personas to create her. And of course, there are many strong women I know, not following her trade of course (laugh), who served as inspiration.
Although your role of Sherif Mourad is not known under that name in the book Turab El Mass, it has a complex and intriguing place in the film. Why do you think this role was inserted, and how does it impact the storyline?
By creating this extra character when the script was written, there is the addition of a new twist with added suspense. Sherif Mourad does exist in the novel, albeit under another name, but with the same characteristics.
When changing a novel into a movie, you have to introduce it differently. The magic of drama lies in its unpredictability. By creating new characters and events you are able to construct the dramatic pull of the movie.
How difficult was it to get into the character?
I’m always a bit scared, it is always a challenge. In this job, you have to be decisive as to how best to perform the lines, in order to open up the character.
Marwan Hamed (Director)
It’s a brilliant thriller, and I love thrillers. Firstly, I thought it was a very entertaining novel. I was amazed by the characters and the historical link, which was really the plot. This is the third time I have turned one of Ahmed Mourad’s novels into a film. He writes in a very cinematic way. Rather than being simply literature, his work is very visual. Maybe this comes from him being a graduate of film school, he was originally a Director of Photography, which strongly affects the way he writes and probably contributes towards his popularity with the younger scene as well.
How did you select the cast for the particular roles?
Usually, I try to take risks with people. To me, it’s very important to cast an actor who has not done this type of role before. I like to work with talented actors, disciplined actors, who may not seem like the right fit at first. They must be able to make a huge effort, I believe that a good performance comes from hard work and preparation. When this is present, you can create a great film.
Ahmed Mourad (Author)
AM: Turab El Mass is a novel that poses the question, ’What if there were no justice in the world? Could humans go out and take their own revenge and rights if all the world had descended into chaos?’ I started building the plot upon a main character who prosecutes and punishes as if he has the divine right; he decides who dies and who lives, and he believes this is justice.
My hardest challenge was in presenting the opposite to what readers or viewers would anticipate, while remaining exciting and thrilling. All the characters have paradoxical characteristics, and this is generally how everyone is in life. We are all in shades of grey, not black and white. This was hard to execute because it is easier to present a good, kind character with no evil temptations or a dark side.
How do you feel about having the role of Sherif Mourad added to the plot in the screen version?
Sherif Mourad is actually the character of Ibrahim in the novel, a simple, sane man standing in Tahrir. I imagined what this character would have become eight years later. Where would he be? The character of Sherif evolved from the version in the novel, moving up to the movie timeline which is set in 2018.
There must be changes in a film adaptation. You cannot move the main pillars, but you can present the story line visually with different sources, feelings and music, so there is a change from the novel to the movie that still holds the same soul.
You appear to have a natural chemistry with Marwan Hamed, the director of Turab El Mass.
We spent two years in the cinema institute together, Marwan studied direction and I studied cinematography. Visuals brought us together, I love a visual style within written work. He was very keen on my script and had the ability to present it in a professional way. I believe he is the most talented director when it comes to transforming Egyptian novels into movies. There must be empathy between us to have presented an amazing bunch of movies together that will withstand the length of time. My aim is to create unforgettable movies.
Ahmed El Morsy (Cinematographer)
Yes, it had initial challenges, as it was coming from a novel, but with a different point of view. There were a lot of expectations from the audience. I thought a lot before I started setting my plan. This is a dramatic and ‘dark’ movie, so artistically I drew on ‘film noire’ a lot with the use of shadowy areas. You need to use light and shadow as statements to set the mood, to guide the audience. Even if you turn off the sound you should feel the drama of the scene.