Having proven his box office draw numerous times before, Ahmed Ezz is back this summer with a lead role in one of the year’s most anticipated films. Helmed by director Sherif Arafa and driven by producer Khaled Abdel Khalek, El Mamar is an epic film of massive proportions. Ezz’s role as Commander Nour is pegged to be a highlight of his career, so we caught up with the stoic actor to find out more about what audiences can expect.
CWM: What did it feel like to take part in such a historic film like El Mamar?
AE: El Mamar is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s the kind of role that an actor would dream of playing. But I believe audiences should enter the cinema expecting more than just a war movie. I believe this is a film about the human condition, and about regaining dignity after being knocked down. I felt like the objective of the movie was to show that without hard work and strategy, there is no success. There is definitely a lot of action, and audiences will be blown away by that, but there is also a humanistic element to the film.
You play a commander in the film, what can you tell us about him?
Commander Nour deals with a traumatic experience due to the withdrawal of Egyptian troops from Sinai in 1967. It deeply affects his relations with his colleagues in the army, and also his family life at home, to the extent that he can no longer live at home.
Tell us a bit about the time period that the film addresses.
The film shows the build up of events leading up to the Six-Day War and portrays the mental state that Egypt was going through at the time. Not just the Egyptian Armed Forces, also the average citizen and the overall state of the nation. This is why I say it’s not only a war-time movie about tanks and planes, we’re also talking about Egyptian society during that time and what it was going through as a result of 1967.
This is the first time you work with an acclaimed director like Sherif Arafa. What sets him apart from other directors you’ve worked with in the past?
This is the first time I work with him on a movie set, but we have worked on a few commercials together! It’s an honor to work with someone on his level of professionalism; most actors I know would love to have a film with him on their CV. What makes him special is that he combines two important elements, the artistic side and discipline, in order to achieve the best results. This makes his actors comfortable and relaxed when on set.
How did you prepare for this challenging role?
For starters, Sherif Arafa set up a grueling 6-week boot camp for all those involved in the battle scenes to receive proper training on the use of weapons and military equipment! Then when filming began, there were some challenging set locations in desert and mountainous terrain. There wasn’t any sort of shelter we could use during filming breaks, so it was incredibly hard to shoot some scenes. However, I feel like the patriotic nature of the film gave all of us the will and drive to carry on with the work.
What type of military assistance did the production receive?
The Egyptian Armed Forces assisted the film’s production in a logistical sense, by providing the military equipment we needed to make the scenes believable and the locations we were able to shoot in. These locations are usually impossible to access due to security reasons, obviously. However, the producer of the film did not cut any corners with making this project a success. This is evident from all the big names behind and in front of the camera. I feel like this is a landmark film of the era.
There are rumors the film had a massive budget of over 100 million pounds, is that true?
I don’t have the specific numbers, but I’m sure this is the biggest production Egypt has ever made due to the nature of the film – certainly the biggest production in Arab cinema. This would have never happened without the courage of our producer Hisham Abdel Khalek, who up until this point has produced comedy films, but suddenly decided to take on a project of this scale – I’m positive this is due to his extreme patriotic nature.
Would you say you are satisfied with your efforts?
I can safely say this is the hardest role I’ve ever played, both physically and artistically. However, it will be a bright spot and high point in my career for sure.