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Recreating Revolution: Mohamed Diab on Shooting Clash Entirely Inside a Van, and Getting a Letter From Tom Hanks

Recreating Revolution: Mohamed Diab on Shooting Clash Entirely Inside a Van, and Getting a Letter From Tom Hanks


MM: When you were casting your actors, were any of them reluctant to participate or play some of the parts in the film? 

MD: There were a lot of people who refused to be in the film because it’s polarizing or because they didn’t agree with the political views, a lot of people. A lot didn’t want to be in a project that I’m involved with because I’m know to be with the revolution. At the time everyone that sided with the revolution was an outcast. The revolution was forsaken. That was a good thing because we ended up with only the people who believed in what the film is about. We had so many different people, different ideologies, but the film was about accepting the other or at least finding a way to live together even if you are going to disagree completely with the other’s point of view. We had almost 40 people, and yet we never had a fight a politics, which is very rare in Egypt.

MM: It’s also interesting that you decided to make one of the characters Egyptian-American. Was your intention to represent Egyptians abroad. and their views of the current situation? 

MD: My kids are Egyptian-American and my wife is Egyptian-American, and I’ve always thought that they are as Egyptian as anyone else, and they should be treated that way. Anyone who has dual citizenship or who is living abroad people sometimes tell them not to get involved in politics because they don’t know anything about the situation. Sometimes they are seen as lesser citizens. It was very important to represent that. Egyptians all across the world that saw the film relate to that character, the Egyptian-American journalist more than to anyone else. That character also makes anyone that’s not Egyptian at all, identify with the film even more. To me the film is not only about Egypt. Yes, it’s about an Egyptian topic, but in the end after 15 minutes we don’t talk about politics, there are only two sites that hate each other, and we want to humanize both sides. I think that’s why the film is working very well internationally because everywhere around the world people can see themselves in the van. In America today they can see themselves as the democrats or the republicans, Trump haters and lovers. All over the world, in Turkey or Venezuela, all divided places, which almost covers every place in the world.

A scene from Clash

MM: Will the stories that you want to tell continue to be grounded in this revolution and its aftermath? 

MD: Sometimes the revolution inspires me not to talk about politics, but about other things. Right now my wife and I are writing a science fiction film about the future, but it’s completely inspired by things that I experienced in the Egyptian revolution. I think it’s going to stay with me for a long time. It doesn’t always have to be in a political way, but the experience that I went trough and what every Egyptian went through in the past five years is going to stay with us forever.

MM: How would you characterize the current state of the Egyptian entertainment industry? Does it consist of many other fresh voices like yours that are making films in the country? 

MD: Egypt is like the Hollywood of the Middle East. We have a very big cinema industry in Egypt. For the past 30 years it wasn’t as strong as it once was, but now it’s picking up. We have a commercial scene that makes comedies and action films, but in the past couple of years after the revolution there is a new wave of directors who are trying to do their own work on their own terms. Last year there was an Egyptian film in almost every major festival in the world. I’m very optimistic about the future. That’s usually the story of tons of places after turmoil. The art scene always flourishes. MM

Clash was Egypt’s Oscar submission for the 89th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and opened in select theaters August 25, 2017, courtesy of Kino Lorber. All images courtesy of Kino Lorber.

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  1. Basma Osama says:

    I would like to read in this article something like a greeting from the director to us “neutral viewers” who saw the movie as a message singing for the humanity ..we were beside its producers from the first while of publishing in cinemas and we were supporting an idea more than support just a movie

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