Rym El Benna: Tunisian Extravaganza

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Rym El Benna is so much more than a blazingly beautiful woman who entered the glitz and glam of the silver screen through the gates of her long modeling career. Hard work and persistence have landed Rym El Benna a major role in a film that should be a tuning point in her career.

With a law degree from Tunis and a Literature degree from London Rym is fluent in four languages and is a genuinely nice and accessible person as we have met her at the MEIFF in late 2009 in Abu Dhabi, where she was showcasing her breakthrough film “Dowaha” aka Burried Secrets directed by the talented Raja Amari.

“Dowaha” has once again proven that model turned actress is a good combination. “Yes, I am a model turned actress like many other stars who shifted from their modeling career to the Silver Screen like Monica Bellucci, Leticia Casta, Cameron Diaz or Milla Jovovich, for example. I’ve been working for many years as a model, therefore I had the chance to be spotted by directors in the scene”, El Benna tells us.

After ‘Al Dawaha’ was screened, the film faced controversial feedback due to bold scenes and a daring script. Rym played a young modern woman who visits an estate for a romantic weekend getaway with her boyfriend and gets into the life of three women who suffer from darkness, violence, abuse and oppression. Her nude bathing scene earned her death threats by fanatics, “Let’s say it’s an old story. I am a positive person and everyone who succeeds has enemies. I can say those people don’t know me if they just knew me, I’m sure they will like me because I’m a nice and deep person. And for my future choice of roles, let’s say I am a responsible person and I choose my roles by knowing quite well if I could fit in the role or not and if the director is professional enough and I would like to choose my coming roles according to challenge, composition and hard work. My experience with Raja Amari was fine and fun. I learned a lot and this is the most important of all, and I have a good relationship with her”, she tells.

Rym aims for profound roles that call for her skill and talent rather than her model looks, “I prefer roles that are far from my real character, I want to work very hard and shun from the image of ‘The Model’. I’m a human after all and hate being treated as plastic as I have a spirit which is more important”.

After “Dowaha” many scripts found their ways to Rym but accepting any other role shall be rather difficult. Currently, she stands behind the camera for a Tunisian TV series that will be aired among a huge audience in the Ramadan TV peak. “I play Warda in a new Tunisian drama for Ramadan. Warda is a rich girl who becomes handicapped after an accident bound to a wheel chair. It’s a very difficult role with lots of psychological training and I’ve been selected by Mr. Nejib Ayed, the producer who thought that I’m the one who can play such a sensitive character. I usually start by reading the script after I discuss the description of the role with the director. I try to visualize the character’s look, voice and psychological factors. For example, in my new role Warda, I actually went to speak with a specialized doctor about handicapped people to be able to embody the character”, Rym adds.

Tunisian cinema has become one of the most authentic and refined cinema in the region. Known as’ Le Cinema d’auteur’ (The Cinema of the director), Tunisian Cinema is often characterized with reflecting the personality of the director. Some audiences prefer to watch commercial movies and others like to watch the art of Le Cinema d’auteur. The industry is very limited as may be two or three films a year come to the silver screen, “it’s difficult for Tunisian Cinema to have the best funds and production, but thanks to our president Ben Ali and the Ministry of Culture who started to give a helping hand, this year, it will be the ‘Year of Cinema’ as we’re producing seven movies”, she proudly states.

Tunisian Cinema enjoys a certain freedom, which enables producers, directors and actors burst out with proper art without commercial aspects some films tend to approach, especially in reflecting women’s image “women in Tunisia have lots of rights in comparison to other Arabic countries. For me, a woman is a woman everywhere. She is a mother, a sister and a wife. In the history of Tunisian Cinema, the image of the women in cinema responds of the real image of the Tunisian woman is a contradiction of the modernized women who are still attached to the old culture and religion. “Dawaha”, for example, is not a documentary; it’s a movie that talks about women you may find everywhere. Let’s be honest and say that violence exists all over the world as the good and evil exist. We see violence daily on the news and both genders are victims of violence. I’m against violence, I always welcome peace but that’s real life. In Tunisia we produce between three to five movies a year, and maybe one of them might have some nude scenes, but usually those scenes are for dramatic reasons. In Egypt, the cinema of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was more open than today and that’s could be related to religious fanaticism. From 30 to 40 movies in Egypt we may see only some of them containing “explicit” openness like ‘Yacoubian Building’ and ‘Bel Alwan El Tabeyaa’, for example. In my opinion, creativity is freedom, cinema is one way where we can show real life and I’m with freedom of expression in cinema. The movie is a perception of life and the director has to feel free in the choice of movies he/she directs”, she points out.

Rym’s future is jam-packed with fierce ambition with heavy cinematic hopes “I don’t have a dream role, I love my work and when I like a script and I feel the character, I do it immediately. I have a crazy dream of being a Hollywood star and I think it’s a possible chance as I speak French, Italian, Arabic and English. As for my appearance on the Egyptian Silver Screen, unfortunately I have no projects yet, although I wish I would get a proposition soon. It would be an honor and pleasure. I’ve only been once to Cairo for the Film Festival in 2009 and I would love to visit again. I don’t like commercial movies; I love the movies of Youssef Chahine. I am also a huge fan of the Black and White era of refined Egyptian Cinema and the romantic movies of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s”, Rym tells.


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