Marking a return to feature filmmaking after 16 years, Khairy Beshara talks to Screen about experimental docu-drama Moondog.
Egyptian filmmaker Khairy Beshara has returned to feature filmmaking following a 16-year hiatus with experimental docu-drama Moondog, which is screening in DIFF’s Muhr Arab feature competition tonight.
Why did you have a 16-year break from directing features?
In 1996 I had the highest salary in the Egyptian film industry and made two films in one year. I won the Silver Pyramid at the Cairo film festival for one of those films, Traffic Light. But I decided after I took the prize that I couldn’t continue any more in the film industry and wanted to find myself; I needed a change.
Then after a few years, the digital revolution happened and I became one of the evangelists, along with my friend [fellow Egyptian film-maker] Mohamed Khan. Everyone thought we were mad. Arturo Ripstein said that when a director gets older, he should turn to digital or die. That made me think I don’t want to die - I want to survive in another way.
So I decided to make a film about my disappearance and started shooting Moondog in 2000, beginning with a real event,my daughter’s wedding in Washington DC.
Does Moondog lean towards documentary or fiction?
The film mixes fiction and reality. The Moondog is me - when I disappear, my son discovers I’ve metamorphosed into a dog. It’s very free; I approach film as a long dream or maybe a nightmare. The biggest influence on me has been an essay written by Alexandre Astruc in 1948 about ‘camera stylo’, which talks about using a film camera like a pen. All my life as a director I’ve tried to achieve this, as it allows you to be free.
How did you know when to stop shooting?
It was difficult because I kept telling myself to stop shooting, but at the last minute I’d pick up a camera and start again. But now Moondog is finished - I knew it was finished when I filmed the scenes with the dog, because the dog expresses me and my views of how I see life.
How did you fund the film?
I didn’t want to accept funding because I wanted to be free; I don’t care about money and distribution. So I continued to professionally make TV serials so I could self-finance the film.
You may not be concerned about distribution, but you must want people to see the film?
I adore the audience but I’m tired of fighting to reach people and I don’t want to beg somebody to distribute my film. After the screening, if somebody asks to take the film then, of course, with pleasure. But it’s not my concern and I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. I’m just proud of myself that I’ve finished the film and it will screen at the Dubai film festival on the big screen.