An Expat Cinephile: Mo Faramawy


Mo Faramawy’s film, The Foreigner, will resonate with many of those in our generation. Faramawy is an Egyptian who lived a big part of his life in Turkey and ended up studying in the US. While his film beautifully portrays the detachment an expat sometimes feels, we could definitely tell there’s more to him than that. The Foreigner was very well received and even participated in a few festivals. His cinephilia is something we couldn’t wait to discuss with him.


Why did you choose directing?

I always knew from a young age that I wanted to work in film. Most of my professional work over the past seven years was in producing and editing, but I always went back to writing and directing.

I would also call myself a producer as well. Especially in the independent film scene when the director has to do a lot of producing.


Is The Foreigner your first film?

‘The Foreigner’ isn’t my first short film as a director but it definitely was the biggest and most challenging one. Before that I had directed about 10 shorts through NYU and outside school as well. Besides that I worked on set in different positions. So over all I would estimate that I have worked on over thirty short films. And before ‘The Foreigner’ I worked on a total of six feature films.


And what kind of film would you like to do in the future? What’s your dream?

I would want to work as a television show runner. I grew up watching TV and being obsessed with the format. It’s one of the main reasons I chose to study and work in America. So it is my ultimate goal to be the head of a TV show, preferably comedy. I would also be happy being on the writing staff of a Tina Fey or Matt Weiner show.

As for films, I love writing dramatic comedies.


So we’re thinking the “Seinfeld Format” sort of show? A Larry David type of production?

I do love ‘Seinfeld’ and there would definitely be some major influences there. I am leaning towards a one camera comedy, something more like “30 Rock”, “Spaced” and “Broad City”. A weirder senses of humor. That’ll be my demographic (laughs).


How does it feel like to get so much recognition over your first film?


It’s a bit strange (in a good way). I have worked in the business side of the industry. And having been a part of that world, I knew my film isn’t the most marketable. So when we were submitting to festivals we narrowed our focus. So seeing the response that we’ve been getting it is really great.


In many ways I’ve always been kind of an outsider


Films that have an independent feel to it are becoming more popular now, as opposed to about 10 years ago when Edgar Wright was one of the few directors who did quirky comedies, what do you think of that?

I think you’re absolutely right. The trend now is to make low concept relatable films. From Mumblecore, to shows like ‘Girls’ or ‘Transparent’ or ‘Togetherness’ or movies like ‘Short Term 12’ media is very much based in reality. A part of the reason now is that there is more content than ever before and that more and more people can make a film, or a web series or a sketch comedy. The exciting thing about it is that you get to hear and see a greater variety of unique stories and perspectives.


Have you been keeping up with the film industry in Egypt?

For the most part I have! I am a few months behind now though, but I am currently working on the MasrdotBorka Short Film Festival. That’s been a great way for me to stay involved in the film scene, get in touch with local artists and make sure I am keeping up with what is going on.


And what do you think of it?

It’s become very exciting. I remember growing up in Cairo in the 90’s there were a lot of the same kind of movies. Very fun movies, but the majority of the marketplace was slapstick comedy. However, the past few years things have changed a little. Ramadan shows are stepping up in terms of production value, movies are tackling more topics. There are also more options and venues for young filmmakers to create. That’s truly special.


Would you consider working exclusively in Egypt, or would you like to work between Egypt and the US?

I always want to keep a connection with Egypt. If I have an opportunity to make a film in Egypt I would take it. At the moment, the scripts and work I am doing leans more towards the American marketplace, but definitely, I want to work between Egypt and the US.


You’ve expressed in your film sentiments that only expats will get. Has this something you’ve struggled with your entire life?

In many ways I’ve always been kind of an outsider. And there are many struggles in being an expat but I always remember how lucky I am to have experienced these different cultures. But I guess it’s very true that I don’t quite belong anywhere on paper: Egyptian raised out of Egypt, Turkish but will never be fully Turkish, American but only by choice of education. In terms of the film, that while the sentiments may relate to expats, they also resonate with a larger audience.


Who are your favorite directors? Anyone who has ever inspired you.

I’ll try to keep this short: Stanley Kubrick, Richard Linklater, Milos Froman, Paul Thomas Anderson, Nadine Labaki, Lynne Ramsey, Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Youssef Chahine, The Coen Brothers. It’s the fun thing about movies. Different styles, different directors can inspire you in so many ways.


 It concerns me because I don’t believe art should be censored at all.



And what’s your favorite thing to do in the film industry, script writing, directing, or acting?

Definitely writing and producing. I love directing as well but writing and producing are where I am at these days. They are all stressful but extremely satisfying.


And would you consider making documentaries, or are you mainly focused on fiction?

I have worked on a few documentaries. I studied documentary filmmaking in Cuba back in 2012, directed three. Currently I am attached to produce and edit a short documentary. So documentaries are definitely in my future (and present) but primarily in producing and editing roles, not as a director.


Are you concerned about how different it would be to film in Egypt, knowing all the laws and rules that sometimes make it difficult here? And what about censorship?

Yes. It’s always difficult to operate under censorship laws and rules. Having not filmed in Egypt, I can only speak from my experience in filming in Cuba. It forces the filmmakers to be more creative and efficient. The harsher the restrictions, the bigger the effect it has on art. Censorship is something that, no matter where you are in the world, exists. In Egypt, the reality of that situation is made extremely clear. It concerns me because I don’t believe art should be censored at all.

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