Kamla Abu Zekry has established herself as an award-winning director with many great success stories in her repertoire. She is behind films like “Malek wa Ketaba”, “An El Eshq wal Hawa” and “1:0” as well as a featured short film in “18 Days”, which was among one of the best. With “Zat” she has done it again.
“I never thought it would receive this success especially in Ramadan. I was worried because “Zat” wasn’t about the typical super heroine in a series that tackles crime, betrayal, murder or drug dealing like the most talked about series. It’s a story of a girl. An often negative and weak characteras well soI was concerned that it might not appeal to the audience. The first episode was the most challenging because the main characters weren’t there and I had to shoot 15 years in only one episode! It wasn’t easy”, she says while getting ready for our cover shoot. “I had a strong feeling towards this project. Sometimes you read a script and you know it’s good and all but you don’t feel like working with it. I can’t imagine doing action movies for example, it’s about what you feel towards a certain project, and I don’t set certain rules”, she adds.
“I was worried because “Zat” wasn’t about the typical super heroine in a series that tackles crime, betrayal, murder or drug dealing like the most talked about series”
By triggering one of the best performances of Nelly Karim in “Zat” and “1:0”, Kamla thinks that their chemistry is like no other, “of course a big part of our success in mutual projects is chemistry. Nelly is someone who is coming to do her job and go home. She doesn’t pay attention to who’s better than whom in the studio and she is never jealous of anyone. She doesn’t have these clichés of some actresses who’d bethinking if they shed a few tears in a scene and people sympathized with their character that they made it to stardom. She doesn’t see herself as the best and she always works on herself”, Kamla points out.
From décor to clothes and the way the characters walked and talked, “Zat” was a time machine taking us on a journey through past decades. Whether a grandmother or a granddaughter, we all saw our past selves in each episode. “It required intensive research. I read more about historic events and people like Abdel Nasser, the 1967 defeat, Yemen War, Sadat times in addition to researching the products used in each time; from the shape of the cigarette pack to how supermarket plastic bags looked like years ago. We watched old movies like “El Bab El Maftooh” and “El Hafeed” and a lot of movies from the 70’s. I went to an old photographer in downtown and took old photos from him of families at the beach in the 70’s for example. A lot of effort was excerpted in preparation for Zat”, she tells.
Like many single working mums, Kamla knows exactly the complications women like Zat face. “I lived the difficulties Zat faced. I got married at a young age and had a child then got divorced and worked being a single mum. Sometimes the husband can be helpful and supportive and other times he kills your ambition. My ex-husband used to tell me that he didn’t like my latest movie before even watching simply out of jealousy. Now I’m doing this shoot and at 8am this morningI was at my daughter’s school paying the fees. We don’t have a team of drivers and maids to helpand I made sure when she was little that I spend one full hour a day exclusively for her with my phone off”, she comments.
“It required intensive research. I read more about historic events and people like Abdel Nasser, the 1967 defeat, Yemen War, Sadat times in addition to researching the products used in each time; from the shape of the cigarette pack to how supermarket plastic bags looked like years ago.”
Sad but true, being independent, successful and talked about can be challenging in finding the right man in our society, “That’s absolutely true! I think a man who accepts the fact that his woman is successful, famous and most importantly spends from her own pocket should be someone like the late Dr. Fayad, Hend Rostom’s husband or Dr. Abdel Wahab, Faten Hamama’s husband. He should be very successful and outside of the cinema industry”, she says.
With myriads of daily obstacles facing Egyptian women at home and on the streets, Kamla thinks that women are frustrated and emotionally wrecked, “The idea of women carrying lots of predicaments on their shoulders is now escalating. At least in the 70’s she used to wear what she wanted. Today you keep on worrying about what to wear to avoid harassment and people stare at you all the time anyways. At the beginning of the 80’s, Egyptian women became scared from looking pretty. When you do you hair nicely and put on a pretty dress, you jump into the car before anyone hurts you. Women are trying hard to cover themselvesup. Women who want to look pretty are always found in a chic restaurant or a gated community. We feel suffocated from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed. So many details overwhelm you and kill your inspiration. Add all these dilemmasto the overall problems that every Egyptian citizen faces such as crappy roads and so on, it’s all terrible”, she comments. “This ‘dress code’ sort of applies to men as well, which is weird. I was in Germany with my daughter this summer and she asked my why Egyptian men don’t wear shorts when it’s hot outside like German men do”, she laughs.
“At least in the 70’s she used to wear what she wanted. Today you keep on worrying about what to wear to avoid harassment and people stare at you all the time anyways.”
The conclusion to what women want evolved along Kamla’s journey along her female characters and colleagues, and own life struggles, “Women want love, love in general. From her family and friends; most importantly they want freedom. The freedom of doing what you want and not what other people would want and expect you to do.90 % of Egyptian women today are living their life according to how people would want to see them”, she answers.
Photo by Hatem Salah
Hair by Rafy from Al Sagheer Salons
Makeup by Sherif Khalil from Al Sagheer Salons
Bracelet by Azza Fahmy
Chair by Dokan Boutique
Table and mirror by Zara Home
Special thanks to Dokan Boutique & Vintage Furniture & Object Emporium