LOS ANGELES: Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama’s film “Barra El-Manhag” premiered in Los Angeles, California giving Arab creators international exposure.
The screening took place at the first ever Hollywood Arab Film Festival, which ran until April 30.
The five-day event, which was part of the celebration of Arab Heritage Month, offered Arab filmmakers the opportunity to gather, create and showcase their work.
Arab News caught up with Salama to talk about “Barra El-Manhag” and the festival.
The film is a coming-of-age story, and it served as the finale for the festival.
“It’s about a kid who has the courage to enter the haunted house in front of his school and just find that there’s no monsters inside,” Salama told Arab News. “There’s a man hiding there and a relationship keeps growing between him and the man who becomes his mentor.”
The film premiered at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah late last year, but showing it in Hollywood offers an opportunity to showcase the abilities of Arab creators, including those of the next generation like the child-actor Omar Sheriff, who played the main character in “Ben El-Manhag.”
Whilst discussing the process of casting Sheriff, Salama said: “I had to see hundreds, literally hundreds, of kids to pick him. He was the smartest and most ambitious and the most brave.”
The movie also stars famed Egyptian actor Maged El-Kidwani whom Salama has worked with before.
“For the other roles, they are all famous actors in Egypt, especially Maged El-Kidwani. I had the pleasure of working with him twice before, and I saw him in this role for like 10 years since I started writing the film,” he added.
The Hollywood Arab Film Festival is bridging the gap between American and Middle Eastern cinema, benefiting both regions, shining a light on Arab filmmakers and paving the way for new creators to prosper in Hollywood.
Salama sees the festival as a great representation for the region.
“Finally, we have a festival that represents us as Arabs in Hollywood. I really respect the efforts of the guys working on the festival and how they are working hard to do an event that can represent us in such a glamorous way, and I’m very glad I’m here,” he said.
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