Bushra: The actress behind the El Gouna Film Festival
An interview with Bushra
We managed to catch up with the talented and well-loved Egyptian actress Bushra. Behind the success and the red carpet is a very modest, personable and beautiful woman. Her contribution to the El Gouna Film Festival has been phenomenal. In this heart-warming interview with Bushra, let’s see what makes her tick…
You have already become a household name when it comes to Egyptian cinema. When did you decide that you wanted to act?
Actually, acting wasn’t the first on my list, it was the last. I started at a very young age – I began with free studies in ballet, music and in arts in general. But after all of that, acting came to prevail. I was very young when I fell in love with show biz, films, and arts in general.
Acting is a challenging career, why did you choose it?
Well! Every career in Egypt is a challenging career nowadays. It’s not easy at all for any woman to prove herself in any career whatsoever. So whether acting or being a doctor a lawyer or any other career, it would still be extremely challenging for an Egyptian woman, given the mentality, society we are living in now.
When did you realize you had “made it” in the film industry?
I realized that I had made it in the film industry from the very beginning because I started from where everyone else ends. As a little girl I participated in international films by American directors; later on, my first Egyptian film was with the great Youssef Shaheen. He was an icon back then and still is. I realized then that I am starting big and that’s how I should continue. Just as big if not bigger. But to be more precise, I think my film Cairo 678 by Mohamed Diab was my masterpiece. I was the producer, actor and I also won best actress for my role.
You have had the opportunity to act alongside some of the greatest names in Egyptian cinema, but is there a particular Egyptian actor or actress (dead or alive) you wish to co-star with? And why?
I am very greedy when it comes to talents and icons! I love to work with everybody. It’s true, I have worked with big names and most of the icons of Egyptian Cinema such as Nabila Ebed, Adel Emam, Yousra, Hussien Fahmy and Mahmoud Yassin. But I also wanted to work with Faten Hamama and, of course, Shadia and Mohamed Fawzy the most because I find the resemblance between the type of talent that they and that I have. They were and always will be legends. Also, I wont forget the men, of course. I would have loved working with Roushdy Abaza, Ahmed Mazhar, and Omar El Sherif – who once said that I’m a very promising talent and that he believes that I am going to have a great career. This is something he said more than maybe 12 to 15 years ago and I think he made his point 😀
If you could have coffee with any actor/director (dead or alive, Egyptian or non-Egyptian) who would it be?
Coffee!! mmmm, I’m not a coffee person at all 😀 But maybe tea! I am very British when it comes to tea. This question requires a lot of thinking because as I said before I am very greedy when it comes to talents. There is not one particular person I would choose. I would rather be with all of them! Maybe a tea party would be better. But seriously by naming one of them it would be unfair to the rest because everyone has their own fingerprint that I appreciate and respect.
Who are your role models today? Whether they are role models as actors or as individuals?
There are a lot of social activists especially women whom I really respect from all around the world. Any woman who has made a difference or has changed taboos regarding a certain matter to me is a role model. She could be a political activist or an artist who fought for something new, or something not regular or uncommon.
Also, my dad has always been my role model not because he is my father but because he was a mentor. He was someone who influenced peoples lives positively and made a difference for other people especially women, children the poor, and intellectuals.
Being a versatile actress, you have opportunities to act in a variety of genres, but if given a choice, would you prefer acting in comedies or more dramatic films?
I think that there is a lot of drama in the world. I truly believe that we need to cry less and smile more. So, I would choose light romantic comedy in particular. Because we lack a lot of romance in the world today and we also need a smile on our faces.
What is your routine when you acquire a character to perform?
My routine! O my!! Well, I begin with research, I study the character, then I study the background of the character. If I am impersonating somebody known or based on a true story I prefer to sit with the family or people who know the character maybe friends or critics who have ideas and people who have worked with this person. But if it’s just a fictional character I try to work on the way the character talks, walks, dresses and add my input to it. That’s basically how it works with me.
We are sure that your day is busy with events and interviews; can you describe your daily routine to us?
Hahahaha..its crazy!! Its coco land! Well, I have a very busy life. I’m busy with people, busy with projects, with ideas, busy trying my best to create a difference.
I get tons of phone calls, emails, WhatsApp, messages. And of course a lot of interviews and meetings that have no end. Also Dealing with family matters, my mum, my cousins and the rest of the family. I also do a lot of charity and social work so that too consumes a great lot of my time.
What is the best and worst characteristic of working as an actress, or as a member of the film industry?
My answer would be what is not the worst!! Well, its a very challenging, competitive atmosphere and industry. I will always go back to the same concept of the fact that I am a woman in a male-dominated society and industry. Even when movie making in Egypt was built on the shoulders of a lot of women, still nowadays it’s more male dominated even after all the women movements and women rights campaigns. So the worst is that it’s hard to prove that you don’t depend on your beauty to make things happen and that you are a woman with a brain who wants to make a difference and who wants to have real input and leave real legacy in this industry. With all the details that this statement could include.
As an actress, there must be many challenges that you face. What challenges do you believe women face in the film industry? What would you like to see women do more?
Well, as we speak I have, like, 4 scripts at home with fundings and are ready to go but because the main character is a female and the story about this female, I find real difficulty convincing a male actor to co-star the film with me although they always expect us to support their films as supporting actresses with usually less acting and creative space . I have always felt that this is so unfair to us.
I would like women to support men less in this industry and expect more support from them. We also have to be equal or at least close to equal in terms of payment, space, roles, and effect.
What does the actor/actress of today need to be able to succeed in the film industry?
They need to Educate themselves more. They need to be more intellectual and they need to read much more. They also need to watch more international films because I see a lack of experience when it comes to what others are doing in the world. We don’t watch enough films except for the commercial ones that come mainly from America. We don’t watch enough European films or see other experiences and experiments from other parts of the world. I would mark it as being mainly narrowed to what comes from the US and that’s very limiting to any actor or actress of today because they are in one circle or a loop and they have no idea what’s happening outside.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what advice would you give? Advice about life and about your career.
If I was in a time machine and I would go back?! I would still do everything the same way because I am so proud and confident and I did everything with conviction and a lot of hard work. What I would have done differently is that I would have limited the compliments which are not even in foreign societies. I would have compromised less when it comes to accepting things that are not up to my caliber. Also, I would have made fewer sacrifices and I would have never settled for less than what I deserved. This is something I acquired in a later stage of my life. I have become more aware of the fact that I should not accept any kind of sacrifice even if its in the name of goodness or social acceptance.
Let’s Focus on El Gouna
El Gouna has a special place in the hearts and minds of everyone who visits it. What does El Gouna mean to you?
El Gouna means paradise to me. It’s a new better, tomorrow; its hope for better quality in Egypt – the Egypt I want people to see. Not only as nature or a beautiful destination but as people in a cosmopolitan place where everyone is accepted, can mingle and can deal with anyone from any part of the world.
When did you first come to El Gouna?
It’s really funny the first time I came to El Gouna: If I remember correctly it was a visit planned by the faculty of E0ngineering Architectural Department who were visiting El Gouna as part of their practical project to implement their studies on real sites. My colleague and I joined our friends from the faculty of engineering although we were from the faculty of tourism. Nevertheless, my friend and I decided to go on this trip to see how El Gouna was made and how its a sample of successful architecture. It was actually really funny at the time because everyone was asking what were we doing there!! But today I know, I was destined to be in El Gouna – destined to see El Gouna differently. Not just as someone who is spending a vacation there.
A day in El Gouna is definitely different from one in Cairo! Can you describe a typical day for you when you come to El Gouna? Are there specific activities or places that you like visit and enjoy?
Well, El Gouna is more of a relaxing destination to me than an activity destination. Because of my hectic and tough job I do need the relaxation. I also meet and spend quality time with my friends and family and bring my foreign friends to El Gouna to visit and to spend their vacations with us. We could also take boats and go to the middle of the sea where it’s actually really private and very relaxing. I wish if there were more beaches in El Gouna though. But I am still in love with everything about it. Although after El Gouna film festival, El Gouna has changed to me, it became work as much as a destination for relaxation and leisure.
If you had a chance to live in El Gouna permanently, what would be your reasons?
I consider myself an El Gouna ambassador. I think I have proven that too. El Gouna is permanently in my heart. I don’t think, if I would ever live in El Gouna, I would have a specific reason to do so. But I really do feel safe, comfortable, relaxed , I don’t feel that my privacy is being invaded and I can be myself easily there. I could always be the cosmopolitan version of myself there too because in El Gouna I don’t feel only Egyptian, but I also feel like I am a citizen of the world.
El Gouna film festival
Without a doubt, The El Gouna Film Festival made an impact on El Gouna and on Egypt, it transformed El Gouna to a cultural hub on the Red Sea. But, what does the El Gouna Film Festival mean to you?
I believe that when engineer Samih Sawiris created Gouna, he wanted it to become a cultural hub on the Red Sea and step by step they work on achieving this goal. So I think that I am one of the arms or one of the reasons that is helping Samih Sawiris fulfill his vision for Gouna. He appreciates culture very much and encourages youth and intellectuals which El Gouna is filled with. But what does El Gouna film festival mean to me? The first thing that comes to my mind when I mention Gouna is that its a dream come true – it gives hope for a better Egypt, but hard work and passion are what I remember most.
How has the El Gouna Film Festival changed you?
I don’t think is has changed anything major about me or who I am. I am still the same. But I believe it has changed the way people see and perceive me. I believe that they have actually started to take me seriously – not just as a pretty face.
I have proven myself to be a real doer. When I decide to do something I make it happen. The best part about it is that more people now believe that if you want to make something happen even if it’s very difficult or hard to achieve, you go to Bushra.
Describe the moment you were most proud of during the last El Gouna Film Festival.
I guess it was the moment the whole team of founders felt on the first second on the red carpet – that we made it!!! It’s actually happening and we are there!!
It was 6 pm on the opening night of the festival, it was that specific moment when we started acknowledging the fact that its actually happening. So that was the main moment to me Amr Mansi, kamal Zadeh and definitely, above all, engineer Naguib Sawiris, as he is not only the founder of the festival, he is also the first person to believe in Egyptian youth and trust our team to create this festival from scratch.
In your opinion, what do you believe makes the El Gouna Film Festival different to other film festivals worldwide?
First of all, it’s by the Red Sea which is one of the jewels of Egypt. Secondly, it has great potential. The people behind El Gouna film festival are the type of Egyptians that should be more visible because they are the new generation of Egyptians. It’s also a very young festival that was created, thought about and executed by well educated Egyptian youth. The majority are actually not older than 35 years!! And also because of how cosmopolitan El Gouna is, Gouna is a very safe and peaceful destination where a lot of people can communicate on a peaceful, artistic basis. Generally, in my opinion, El Gouna film festival has the potential to be the Cannes of the middle east.
The last El Gouna Film Festival saw some re-known international stars, who would you like invite to the El Gouna Film Festival?
Of course, I would like to invite everyone!! I would like to invite foreign stars to see El Gouna through our eyes, I would like to lend them my eyes to see Gouna the way I see it. I want them to be able to see how much Gouna could be loved and how much Gouna reflects modern Egyptian people and Egyptian ways..I would honestly like to invite everyone, every possible name from all around the world to come to the festival.
Can you share what will make the next El Gouna Film Festival even better than the previous one?
Well, first and foremost is learning from our mistakes. We, as a team, consider learning from our mistakes and analyzing why, where and when we went wrong. This is our number one priority. So we could try as much as we can to exclude every unnecessary negative incident. We learn from our experience and every year is a new year that adds a different learning experience. Although I would never be able to know peoples expectations and we are not supposed to meet everyone’s expectations. but we work hard, consult, listen to make it as successful as possible.