A New Wave in Egyptian Cinema

When he was growing up in Cairo, Adham Elnashai binged stacks of DVDs with his dad, and the pair discussed and analyzed the movies with studious passion. The younger Elnashai’s tastes veered to the classic works of veteran Egyptian actor Rushdy Abaza and international superstar Omar Sharif, considered one of Egypt’s greatest actors. “They stood out to me for their ele-gance and well-versed dialogue,” says Elnashai ’19 Com. “Egyptian cinema was well ahead of its time.”

Now, Elnashai is adding a new chapter to his country’s long cinematic history. In February, the budding director won the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film 2022 Audience Award for his drama Rahma, about a young Egyptian girl who moves to California with her conservative father. The protagonist struggles to reconcile her father’s expectations with a desire to discover herself in a new land. “A lot of people reached out to me to tell me how my film had them in tears, because they related to Rahma,” Elnashai says. “It’s definitely a societal issue that needs to be addressed.”

The film was influenced by Elnashai’s own experience coming to the U.S. “Moving countries is one of the most difficult changes to overcome,” he says.

Elnashai knew he wanted to get into moviemaking in his early teens, when he and friends acted out movie scenes or created alternate scenarios. “I really cared about placement, composition, and lighting,” Elnashai says. He has been greatly influenced by the work of British cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose style, he says, “is extremely motivated by the story and is characterized by simple and realistic camera work and lighting.”

Elnashai lives in Los Angeles, where he’s working on ideas for new films. “I hope viewers get the message behind my work," he says. —Andy Faught