We were so glad we were able to take a few minutes out of Ahmed Malek’s super busy schedule. Between filming, the festival and watching movies we sat down with him to talk about his film “The Furnace” which was first premiered as part of the 77th edition of the Venice International Film Festival. Receiving a lot of praise for his role, Ahmed Malek plays an Afghan in the 19th century west Australian gold rush.
By Mariam Elhamy
How did it feel to be chosen for an internationally produced film, especially something as big as this?
I felt a big responsibility to prove myself, something I feel most of the time because I always want to give more and do more. This time was specifically hard since I was literally on new grounds in Australia, playing a character from a culture that is not familiar to me, in a new genre and a new market for me.
Being chosen for an Australian film made me want my preparation to be on point. I had to do everything I could give to this project and I gave it my best.
This role is very different from anything you’ve done before. How did you prepare for it and how did you learn the language you had to speak?
I had to prepare in two ways, the first was the technical part. I researched the era that the film was set in. I play a young Afghani so I had to learn all about his culture, his country and the time he lived in, which is the 19th century. I needed to understand how things were politically, geographically, culturally, and spiritually with all its aspects at that time.
Another barrier was the language; I consider this the biggest obstacle for actors especially when pursuing acting internationally. In the film, I had to speak in three languages, Pashto from Afghanistan, another one closer to Farsi from Iran and I also had to speak in an extinct Australian language that was spoken by an Australian tribe at the time.
It was very difficult to find a coach who could teach me a dead language and it took me 3 months to learn. I wanted to perfect these languages so that I’m comfortable performing and I can focus on the acting itself.
The second way I had to prepare was the human aspect of the character. I usually focus even more on this part, how the character is, how are his circumstances, how he lived at this period, his feelings, his fears, his dreams, and where he wants to be, preparing for all of this was even harder than the technical part.
I can never put into words how I pulled off this character, but I started by learning his language and his history then I gradually created an image of a real human being.
Can you tell us a word you like in any of the new languages you’ve learned?
A word called “malgari” in Pashto and it means friend.
What’s your favorite thing about the festival this year? Have you seen any movies?
I only attended the opening and the second day, which was the premier of The Furnace, then I had to go back to Cairo because we are currently filming. I’m planning to see a film called “Listen” which got praised by critics in the Berlin and Venice festivals.
I also want to see the film “Mika” and I already saw “The Man Who Sold His Skin” a very important film done by Yahya Mahayni who got the best actor award in Venice.
Texting or talking?
Favorite day of the week?
Favorite city in Egypt?
Fayoum or Tunis village.
Nickname your parents used to call you?
Last song you listened to?
Paranoid Android by Radiohead.
Which language do you wish you could speak fluently?
Summer vacation, it’s the longest.
How long does it take you to get ready?
It depends. Could be 5 minutes, could be an hour.
Scale of 1-10, how good of a driver are you?
5 – 6… Actually 5.
At what age do you want to retire?
Invisibility or super strength?
Scale of 1-10, how good are you at keeping secrets?
8 – 9.