Egyptian actress Nelly Karim attended a special screening of her latest film, “A Man Wanted,” at Arab Cinema Week. The second edition of the film festival was held at Village East Cinema in New York and presented by Movie Pigs and EgyptAir.
In the film, Karim plays a single, independent woman named Shams. She is in her late thirties and wants to have a child. Despite her mom’s efforts to set her up with eligible bachelors, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She uses Facebook to advertise for a sperm donor, in exchange for a large sum of money. What ensues is a charming, entertaining love story.
After the screening, Karim participated in a Q & A moderated by festival founder Peri AbouZeid. Below are a few highlights, which were edited for clarity.
On what she hopes viewers take away:
Nelly Karim: Honestly, when I like the movie, I just like the story. I never thought about the message and who should do what. I like the story. It’s a life story. Our hero Shams, she lost hope in love and all these romantic things, so she decided I need a kid.
On what attracted her to the project:
Nelly Karim: Actually, I had a story in my mind, something like that, about a woman that wanted to get pregnant and then Dina Harb the producer called me and told me, “I have a movie for you.” So we just sat [down], in five minutes she told me the story and I told her, “Okay, when are we gonna shoot?” I liked the idea of the movie … This was her first production and the script writer was a woman and the producer is a woman. Actually, [when] I find myself in women environments, I do good things. I don’t know why, but I feel that we understand each other maybe. When a woman directs, she has certain feelings on some subjects that, unfortunately, men can’t feel it. That’s why Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. I like that Mohamed Mamdouh was playing the main role. I find him funny, charming and unexpected in the movie and he fits in the role very well.
On the edgy roles and subjects she has tackled in her career:
Nelly Karim: Drugs, prisons, crazy people, historical women from 18 years old, I’m not 18 unfortunately, until a 65 year old lady, ugly women. Actually the roles that I haven’t done much are when I’m pretty and sexy and funny, you know? I don’t like these roles. They are not challenging and it’s a long procedure to put on the make up and to do hair, and to dress well. I hate it. I love roles that you just wake up in the morning and go to the studio,”I’m crazy!” So it’s more fun.
On what’s next for her:
Nelly Karim: I’m looking forward to doing good movies. Movies that can be shown in Egypt, in America, in Europe, anywhere, but they are good. They talk about humanity. All of us are humans. All of us have the same problems. I hope that Egyptian cinema one day will rise again or Arabic cinema will rise again like before, like in 60s and 50s we had very good cinema. I’m half Russian, half Egyptian, and I sing in Russian, too. I remember when I was in Russia, they were watching Arabic movies, Egyptian movies. So I wish that this will start again, because we have good ideas, we have good directors, we have good actors, we have good producers that really love cinema. Not only producers that want to make money, but producers that want to do a good movie and to get a little bit of money.
On how she prepares for a performance:
Nelly Karim: When I like the role, I know what the story is about. I never like reading the script like I’m reading and learning every line. I just understand what it’s all about and then when they say action, I’m just doing what I feel. That’s it. I work in spontaneous ways and even any script I get, I know the story and then I have a feeling to do this or no. For example, I remember my last movie was Eshtebak (Clash) by Mohamed Diab. Mohamed just told me the story and then after I read the script, I told him you’re missing a woman in the script because the script was only men, men, men like 23 men. It’s a very tough and hard movie. I told him, “You need to have one woman. Any woman.” He told me “ok.”
We met after a year and he told me, “You know what? I found this woman. It’s gonna be you.” I told him, “Okay.” I didn’t take money from this movie … It wasn’t about money. And when we started to shoot the movie every time I was teasing him and telling him, “You know Mohamed, I’m doing this movie only for one reason, because we’re going to Cannes Festival.” And he was laughing. We are shooting like 14 hours a day. And we were shooting inside the truck. You can’t shoot out. And every time I stepped in this truck, I told him, “I’m doing this, Mohamed Diab, because we’re going to Cannes Festival.” So I was telling him this for weeks, every day. And what happened? We went to Cannes Festival! Mohamed Diab was the first one to call me.
This week, the 39th Cairo International Film Festival closing ceremony took place at Al-Manara Conference Palace. Nicolas Cage, Hilary Swank and Adrien Brody were all in attendance to accept special awards. Nelly Karim presented Brody with his award. Check out some photos below:
I first met Nelly in 2011, when her first collaboration with Mohamed Diab 6, 7, 8 screened at the New Directors / New Films festival at MoMA. You can watch my exclusive interview below: