CAIRO - 10 April 2020: Acclaimed actress Basma brands herself as a “female knight of Egyptian cinema.” With a strong belief in the influential power of women’s cinema, the advocate says female filmmakers have made a major leap in the Egyptian cinema industry—but is confident they have a lot more to present. Lately, Basma has been taking important steps in her own coming of age cinematic journey, with her recent movie Certified Mail taking part in the official competition of the 53rd edition of Carthage Film Festival, the last edition of Toronto Film Festival which was held last September, the Final Cut film section of the 75th Venice Film Festival and the latest edition of the Aswan Women International Film Festival. Her latest film Ras ElSana (New Year) came out on February 5 and her upcoming movie Mako is expected to be released soon.
Egypt Today chats with the actress and filmmaker about her views on women’s cinema, her own role choices and why she’s optimistic about the local cinema industry is reaching a mature stage.
1-You’ve made a strong comeback on screen. Did you intend to focus on cinema more?
This year I’m hoping to reap the fruits of efforts exerted in the previous two years. I started 2020 with Ras ElSana, followed by Certified Mail and my third movie will be Mako. I hope that people re-evaluate me based on this work. I am confident that I am entering into a new stage on the professional, social and human level. I think the screening of these movies will make the audience and the filmmakers view me from different perspective, especially since I had been away from the field for a some time because of personal reasons. It was not planned that I focus more on cinema, but I was offered good roles in cinema and I found that they would add to me. But even if I am going to act in the reception of my house, I love acting and enjoy doing it. I love the fact that I give each character I perform part of me and take part of her, and that makes me more mature.
2-Now that you’re back, do you see any changes in the field?
Of course, some matters have changed and there were certain things that I forgot but it didn’t take long time to get back on track again. My character has changed a lot, I
gained more experience and became more mature, which I hope will have a positive impact on my performance as an actress.
3-What criteria do you follow when choosing your roles and which role has been the most satisfying for you?
My criteria is always the same, I choose the role through which I feel I can present something different or that satisfies the acting hunger inside me, and where I fit in with the rest of the cast. Every role I performed satisfied part of my acting hunger. The actor is continuously hungry for acting, craving to explore more characters and gain
4-You once said that you only choose to take part in films that have a certain message.
I didn’t mean by that declaration that the project must contain a sophisticated or complicated message. Let me correct this misconception, because entertaining
the audience is a message in itself. It’s one of the most important messages of drama and cinema, because art is one of the most powerful entertainment tools.
5-Tell us more about Rania, your character in Ras ElSana. What’s the message behind this movie?
Rania is a woman who is negatively affected by what she hears, even if it is not based on real information and without bothering herself to verify its authenticity. Despite this, we find that she refuses to be judged by anyone. Ras El-Sana discusses the issues of double standards and its message is that we shouldn’t judge others based on rumors but judge based on actions, situations and facts.
6-Certified Mail participated in the latest edition of Aswan Woman International Film Festival. Do you think we have a shortage in movies tackling women’s
Yes and no at the same time. In the past years I’ve seen a number of movies discussing women’s issues, more than in previous years, which is a good indicator for female filmmakers specifically. Women around the world are not just wives, mothers and lovers; they have major contributions in life and it is important to highlight these contributions in cinema and on TV. Certified Mail tells the story of a woman who suffers from postpartum depression, which is one of the topics that we’ve never addressed because we are not sufficiently aware of it. That’s why I was keen to be present this character.
7-We’ve also witnessed the rise of women’s cinema terminology, how do you evaluate the status of women’s cinema today?
I think this terminology is related to the desire to shed light on everything related to women in our Arab societies, as they tend to be masculine, but in general I support the cinema of humans whether male or female. The Egyptian cinema industry has definitely changed a lot, the movies that are presented now make me feel optimistic about the industry—we are witnessing a stage of maturity in terms of the selection of the topics discussed, the script treatment and the image quality. It is an inevitable change related to human change development; everyone changes, grow olds and matures.
8-Most of the scenes of your upcoming movie Mako are underwater and we know that you have a fear of open water. How did you manage to overcome your fear and pull off your scenes?
I put a lot of effort into this movie, at the beginning I suffered from phobias but thank God with the support of my colleagues, whether the actors or the director, I managed to do it. The credit also goes to my diving coaches, all of them helped me a lot to overcome my
fears, dive and perform underwater. I’ve always wanted to learn a new skill to use in my work. I have high expectations for this movie because it contains graphics that were executed using the latest techniques, and it will open the door for a new type of movies in Egyptian cinema that have never been presented before.
9-Digital platforms like Watch iT and Shahid are also quite new to the Egyptian filmmaking scene. Would you consider working with them?
Of course. If the project is suitable it will add something to me and enhance my capabilities; the whole world is now moving toward digital platforms.
10-Are you open to criticism?
Definitely yes, because I truly believe in the proverb that says, “Were it not for the different tastes, the goods would have not been sold.” If all audiences loved me and
admired my performance I’d be so arrogant; of course some admire my acting performance and others don’t. What I care about is constructive criticism that helps
me to improve myself, the criticism that is based on facts. This type I truly respect and learn from, not the destructive criticism which is criticism for the sake of criticism.
11-What’s your dream role?
I don’t have a certain character in mind, but I do want to play a villain. I’d also love to take part in a period drama because it would give me the opportunity to wear the fashion of ancient times and see what it was like living in a different era.