Mohamed Kheidr’s “Tuktuk” Takes International Film Festivals by Storm!

Tuktuk Movie Poster

“Tuktuk” was selected and is nominated for the Best Short Narrative award at the Pan-African Film Festival. Additionally, Lead actress Elham Wagdi won best actress at the Vienna International Film Awards. The film premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France. It was also selected to compete in the Malmo Arab Film Festival, the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Festival international de cinéma Vues d’Afrique, and the Bahrain Film Festival.

About Tuktuk

Tuktuk tells the story of Walaa, a mother and a wife who’s forced to solely take on the responsibility of supporting her family after her husband abandons her to emigrate. In order to get her son through school and get her mother’s medication, Walaa, like so many Egyptian women, takes the wheel and starts driving a tuk-tuk to make ends meet.

Still from Tuktuk
Still from “Tuktuk”

In order to rent the tuk-tuk though, Walaa had to sign a lot of security receipts and agreed to pay the money back in installments. The film highlights the struggles women face when they take on roles traditionally occupied by men. It also centers on the problem of Egyptian female debtors who go to jail for failing to pay back money they couldn’t afford not to borrow.

The road to Tuktuk

The film was directed by Kheidr Mohamed Kheidr who studied film-making at the New York Film Academy and currently runs his own production house.

Director Kheidr Mohamed Kheidr
Director Kheidr Mohamed Kheidr

He first knew about Walaa’s story while working with Masr El-Kheir on their projects to assist female debtors. He felt it was important to share Walaa’s story so as to raise awareness about this problem and help correct people’s misconceptions about female debtors who are often considered reckless and lazy.

“I want this film to encourage people to take a look around them. We need to empathize with others and we have a duty to support women like Walaa, not just financially, but also morally.”

“We need to take a step off our ivory towers and look at things beyond our privilege colored-glasses,” he told us.

Still from "Tuktuk"
Still from “Tuktuk”

Lead actress Elham Wagdi believes the film will greatly impact the audience. “Walaa’s story is real. The less privileged in Egypt fight a battle every day for their rights to a good life. Well-made movies that tell true stories allow the audience to live the experience and feel for the characters. So, I believe the film can change people’s perceptions,” she told us.

Behind the Scenes

This was Wagdi’s first acting experience. She was 2009’s Miss Egypt and was previously a TV presenter. To prepare for her role, Wagdi had to learn how to drive a tuktuk. She also made sure her nails were clipped, her hair was left natural, and her face was free of makeup.

Behind the scenes of "Tuktuk"
Behind the scenes of “Tuktuk”

“I didn’t feel like I was playing a role, I loved Walaa and I wanted to tell her story as accurately as possible,” she told us.

“I didn’t want to be cliché and speak in a fake “eh ya habebtchy” accent, I wanted to show that there’s more to women like Walaa than simply that. She’s a fighter, she’s smart and strong and cares about her family.”

The shooting of the film took place in a real neighborhood, not a set. The team included executive producers Ramy Yacoub and Sherine Alaa, co-writer Sherif Abdelhay, and soundtrack composer Seifeddine Helal. The cast was made up of Elham Wagdi, Ashraf Mahdy, Mohamed Khamis, Omar Rashed, and Marie Guegess. In addition to Adham Mohamed, Farida Hamdy, Nada Akram, and Walid Diaa El-Din. “I owe the success of the film to these people. I also want to thank Takween Media, and Producer Rasha Gawdat for all their support,” Kheidr told us.

On Tuktuk’s success

Kheidr believes the film’s popularity in international film festivals is a big win.

“The peak of my pride for this film is when people watch it and seize the meaning of its message.”

“Festivals allow films to be seen by more and more people. Of course, international recognition is very important to me,” he said.

After her Miss Egypt win in 2009, Wagdi was offered many acting opportunities she didn’t feel strongly about. When Tuktuk came along, she knew it would be big. On her best actress win, she said “It felt like winning after 12 years of waiting. When you want something so much and you work to have it, your dreams really can come true.”

Currently, Kheidr is working on a 12-episode long TV series that also focuses on women’s experiences in Egypt. Clearly, Tuktuk’s on the road of success, follow the film’s Instagram and Facebook pages to stay updated on its route!

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