Yara Goubran, the stunningly unique actress known for her roles in independent films. The avant-garde performer has played a diverse collection of roles all of which we love! Her big smile and fresh presence are contagious in reality as they are on screen. We sit over a few cups of coffee to have a little chat about Egyptian cinema, her career and personal life.
Although Yara’s most recognized work may be her roles in independent films, she has done a little bit of everything. Not everyone knows this, though, “as an actress I choose an interesting role, project and film. I guess I’m seen this way because I did several independent films in a row”, she tells, “and my roles in independent films were bigger than my commercial roles”. Having explored many sides of the Egyptian film scene, she has formed an opinion about what it needs more of, “what is missing is for producers to introduce new topics rather than following trends; people want guaranteed success”, she explains.
“People shoot film with their mobile phones now”
Things, however, are becoming more promising with the rise of many independent directors these days, “I think the reason independent film is more accessible now is because cameras are more accessible. Shooting cinema in the 90s was a very expensive medium”, she says, “with the introduction of new cameras that anyone can use, these movies have become more common. People shoot film with their mobile phones now”.
Décor was a deliberately quirky film that stretched the boundaries of conventional filmmaking. Yara’s character in the film was also an actress who refused to follow stylist’s recommendations and dressed in her own flashy style. Yara thinks this kind of behavior is all part of a chain reaction, “it’s the director, producer, stylist and actress. You need to have a director who’s in charge of every detail”, she explains, “an actress has a say in how she looks, but every department has a role and everyone has to respect the boundaries of their roles basically”.
“an actress has a say in how she looks, but every department has a role and everyone has to respect the boundaries of their roles basically”
Décor’s main character was a woman who was chronically dissatisfied. Although Yara believes women are complicated, she does believe that it’s easier for women to be dissatisfied in Egypt, “many women hardly get a say in anything; their education, who they marry, when they get married, their job and so on”, she elaborates.
Another clear example of Egyptian women’s struggle manifested in another film Yara appeared in, 678. To her, the scene that rings true the most is the one where Nelly Karim was harassed by a child, “she runs after him and says that he stole her purse to get people to react. This is when people start beating him up badly”, she recounts, “then she tries to stop it. I think every woman has been in this situation, torn between revenge and justice”. That being said, Yara’s own reactions to harassment have always been head-on, “when I was younger I would really yell back, once I swore back at a harasser and his friend started walking towards me, wanting to beat me up”, she says, “they think it’s OK for them to make a comment, but not for you to respond. Now I usually stare back at them; I feel like we should shame them”.
“Harassers think it’s OK for them to make a comment, but not for you to respond”
This aside, Yara has found a supportive husband who just happens to be writer George Azmy, a man capable of tickling pretty much anyone’s funny bone, “George is funny by nature; it’s one of the things I love most about him”, she tells, “his sense of humor is sharp, fast and witty. There’s also a cynical and dark humor to him”. Yara and George tied the knot when Yara was in her late twenties. A woman waiting until then to get married is something that not all Egyptians have made their peace with, “it’s insane how people think it’s OK not to mind their own business”, she tells, “I was lucky to have a family that didn’t expect me to get married as soon as I finished my studies, but every now and then my mom would say ‘eh b2a?’ Now of course my family and extended family ask me when I’m going to have babies”, she laughs.
“it’s insane how people think it’s OK not to mind their own business”
Society’s problems don’t only boil down to that. There’s also the way we look at sex. Beit Men Lahm, the short movie Yara worked on, based on the spectacular Youssef Idris novel is said to be watched mainly due to some bold scenes. Things like this could affect how Yara chooses her roles, “ideally I would love to do everything I want to do; I wouldn’t want a film discussing taboos or containing bold scenes to limit my choices”, she explains, “but we live in a society that limits you. I find it very demeaning for people to limit your work to a love scene”. At the end of the day, Yara admits to not always being as brave as she wants to be, “it affects how I think about films and how I make my choices, because at the end of the day I’m not always brave enough to make certain decisions”, she tells.
Yara’s choices between commercial and indie, though, will always remain balanced, “I’ve worked on more commercial projects than independent ones, but people associate me with more indie movies. I want to do everything and explore my range as an actress in all ways”, she tells.
“many women hardly get a say in anything; their education, who they marry, when they get married, their job and so on”
Women are, however, on the right track in cinema, “Décor was a story about women, Menna Shalaby just released Nawara, Hend Sabry did Asmaa. It’s not enough, but we are going in the right direction”, she says. Women are fairly complicated, and Yara knows that quite well, “women want everything from jewelry to makeup to bags and shoes to career and love”, she tells, “but I think what every woman wants ultimately is appreciation and respect… and a good pair of shoes”, she laughs.
Photography by Remon El Markiz
Styling and Art Direction by What Women Want… Magazine Team
Shot at Maison Du Caire
Makeup by Yasmine Ebeid