The Talented Mr. Bendary

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Sherif El Bendary is a young charismatic director on the rise with an award winning repertoire of short films and a new perspective on matters of life.

Bendary graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts in 2001 and worked as a textile engineer before starting his directing career. He always had this deep passion for cinema and always admired the work of famous Egyptian directors like Dawood Abdel Sayed, Youssry Nasr Allah and Mohamed Khan. Molding his passion for cinema with studying, Bendary decided to join the Higher Institute of Cinema majoring in directing. Having worked as an assistant director on various feature films such as “Leabet El Hob” (The Love Game) and “Halet Hob” (A State of Love) gave him enough exposure for his own short films. Among his films were “6 Banat” (6 Girls), a short documentary on six girls living together during their college years, followed by the acclaimed and award winning “Sabah El Fol” (Good Morning) starring Hend Sabry, and finally “Saet Assary” (End of the Day) starring Basem Samra.

How do you evaluate Egyptian short films today?


First of all, the number of Egyptian short films that participate in international festivals annually, exceed the number of commercial feature films in Egyptian cinema. These films reflect our film making techniques abroad as various audiences from different countries participate in these film festivals. “Sabah El Fol” for instance participated in 70 festivals in various countries with different languages. Today, we have 100 short films annually unlike the number we used to have before. This transformation in short films is due to the accessibility of digital technology as anyone could make a short film with his mobile phone. I filmed “6 Girls” with a digital camera and anyone could use these techniques in shooting short films. Today people can study filmmaking at many places in Egypt whereas earlier the only place to learn filmmaking was from the Higher Institute of Cinema.


Who are your favorite young actors and actresses?

I admire Hend Sabry a lot, she is a very professional actress and very talented as well. She knows her tasks and the tasks of her colleagues and doesn’t interfere in anyone’s work even if he’s a director in the making. I also like Menna Shalaby a lot and I’m a fan of Asser Yassin, he is a very talented actor and of course Basem Samra, who showed his talent in many short films before as well as feature films and I became a fan of him since he starred in the late 90’s movie “El Madina” (The City).

Your film “Sabah El Fol” isbased on the play by Dario Foe called “Waking Up”, what interested you in that story, and how did you prepare for filming?

20 years ago, I saw the play here in Egypt and the character was played by Abla Kamel and I remember that I liked it a lot. When I was studying at The Higher Institute of Cinema, I was assigned to make a short film as an exercise in 2006 and I started to read plays by Dario Foe and remembered the play I once saw and liked so I decided to choose that story. When I presented the story for The Higher Institute of Cinema, they completely rejected the idea and I was called crazy to think I could make such a film in duration of 9 minutes with one shot. I felt the grim and decided to forward the idea to National Center for Cinema and they accepted it and we started to proceed filming. The

How come a male director wants to start his first films with female related plots?

It’s not about females; it’s about stories of humans regardless the gender. The suffering of Sanaa the character played by Hend Sabry in “Sabah El Fol” wasn’t to show the idea of female sufferings but the idea of an ordinary human who suffers in her daily life. Many people believed that I’m a feminist but that’s not the case as I don’t defend the female characters in my films, I just display a certain issue that is witnessed in our society.

How did the idea of “6 girls” emerge?


The idea of displaying the concept of females living by themselves wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to raise the fact of stereotyping “girls living by themselves mean negative attitude and reputation”. I wanted to say that there are girls living alone who happen to be very respected by their neighborhood and enjoy a secure life together. I respect their lifestyle and wanted people to respect it as well. I included quotes from their parents to add credibility to what was displayed.


How did you choose the girls in your documentary “6 girls”?

I knew the girls before I thought about the film. We were friends for 5 years and their story attracted me and I always respected their lifestyle and thought that they are the kind of girls people must know about.

How did you convince the girls with the idea of displaying their lives on camera?

Well, it took some time to convince the girls. I didn’t put them under pressure, I left them to decide freely whether they agree or not and two girls didn’t approve of the idea, but I convinced them by the positive results that will arouse from the film. There were some shots that weren’t approved by some of the girls and I respected their points of view.

What was the audience feedback on “6 girls”?

Some people were against the film and others were totally satisfied and it was awarded several times. One day a young woman came to me and told me if you really want to shed light on young female problems, you should have made a film on the suffering of girls at university dormitories and I told her that “female suffering” isn’t what I’m looking for in my movies what I’m really looking for is to make people aware of a certain issue they used to think of negatively, but it turns out to be purely positive according to the type of girls involved. I won’t change the world or preach anything I just want to tell a story.

Tell us about “Saet Assary”?

The film is based on a short story by Ibrahim Asslan who wrote the great movie “El Kit-Kat”. I once read the story on the plane back from Paris. Later, I was assigned to make a short film and I chose a plot that had another problem with the production and I decided to make a film based on the story by Asslan and it worked out. I liked the father-son relationship theme; you never know from the film if they liked or hated each other. I didn’t like the “lack of intimacy” between them but I liked directing such an idea. Cinema is made to show people such silent and deep emotions and the film that you could story tell isn’t a good one.


How do you evaluate the Egyptian cinema industry today?

The Egyptian cinema doesn’t have a certain look. I’m not a hundred percent satisfied with our movie industry today as I find the production is much higher than the standard of movies. I’m not against “El Limby”, I’m a big fan of it but I’m against the fact that all our movies fall under this category. In comparison with Arabic cinema I must say that Arabic cinema is larger than life! Tunisian, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese cinema have great qualities and most probably greater than ours. Arab cinema today is very influential and also has a good connectivity with European audiences. We had so much history in Egyptian cinema but today we’re missing a lot in comparison to other Arab countries.

What are the films you dreamt of directing?

I really like “The Hours” starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore and I wished I could have directed such a film. “Lives of the others” is a German film that has deep directing techniques and a great plot. Concerning Egyptian films, I never dreamt about directing a certain film I just like to watch.

Are there any plans in progress?

Yes, I’m writing a short film now that talks about two lovers who don’t meet the whole film and it’s a light romantic genre. I didn’t decide yet on the actors or the location but I’m still thinking about an actor who happens to climb the ladder of success these days, but still nothing is confirmed.


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