What a difference a month makes: Mohammad Kheidr goes from nobody to small-screen star
A lot can happen in a month. Take Mohammad Kheidr, for instance. Prior to Ramadan, he was known to his friends and family, and probably also to colleagues in the industry in Egypt. Fast forward 30 days and Kheidr has emerged as one of the breakthrough stars of this season, thanks to his television debut on Al Kahera w Al Nas.
The Egyptian satellite network — owned by media mogul Tareq Nour — granted Kheidr air time every day in the form of Rabbena Yostor, a daily fast-paced five-minute show where the witty newcomer delivered nuggets of advice for the problems Egyptians — and the rest of the Arab world — are currently facing, especially in post-revolution times.
While official ratings for the show are not publicly available, the show has struck a favourable chord with viewers, judging by feedback posted on social networking sites.
Examples of messages posted included one by Maha Selim, who wrote: “Forget all the stupid fake dramas — a reality check is what we need. Thank you Kheidr for Rabbena Yostor.” Miiro Camel tweeted: “You’re a genius and everything you say is so true. I adore your show Rabbena Yostor — Egypt needs a lot like you.”
Although a newcomer, Kheidr is no stranger to the media world. The multi-talented artist boasts a multitude of disciplines, his resume including directing, acting and media design. In his very first UAE interview, Kheidr tells tabloid! how it all started.
-You started out as a designer, working on several magazine titles and in advertising — how did the idea of you having your own TV programme come about?
-I have been working as a designer since I was 14, therefore was used to providing solutions for clients — layout solutions, design solutions etc. It started to hit me that, somehow, I manage to come up with solutions for a lot of the problems I hear. So the idea of the show was born.
-Tell us about the concept of Rabbena Yostor.
-Rabbena Yostor is that type of show where I needed to appear sometimes as a very basic, uneducated civilian with questions that suited the type of brain that individual possessed. At other times, I needed to appear as this smart yet nerdy geek who wants to know every single problem in our country, as well as the attitudes of every man and woman in Arab society. Then suggest the solution for a better us and a better society in the future. It mainly concerns forgetting about the politics, forgetting about the regimes and just thinking about what if we were on our own and running the country. You have to start fixing yourself and fixing it immediately. And to do so, people have to use their brain.
-The show has garnered positive feedback from fans and critics – how did you come up with 30 different topics to touch upon in your episodes?
-We’re a small team of people, and we take care of the ideas. Anybody comes up with one, then we develop it together and it gets written down. Finally, it lands on my lap and becomes an episode of Rabbena Yostor.
-You are spreading a great message with your show, but it is also a little strange that it is televised on Al Kahera W Al Nas, which dubbed itself as “Pushing Boundaries during Ramadan” — do you feel your message was at risk of being diluted thanks to the channel also showing content that has been deemed unsuitable for the Islamic holy month?
-When you sign a contract, you don’t ask who’s working at the company or what they do. I’ve been online since March 20, 2011, with some episodes such as Nazareyet Hanafeya, Nazareyet Parliamaneya and Nazareyet Hokoomeya. Al Kahera W Al Nas is the only TV channel that saw these videos and believed in me. They believed so much that they offered me this deal last November. Honestly, I didn’t hesitate; Tareq Nour is Tareq Nour: the idol of advertising in Egypt and the Middle East. And when Tareq tells me he loves my online show and he wants me on board, I must respect that and I must appreciate that. The message in Rabbena Yostor is strong, and the programme is strong, so you just leave the rest in God’s hands.
-In your opinion, what is the worst thing Egyptians are experiencing right now — if you could give any message to those ruling the country, what would you say that Egypt desperately needs in order to start rebuilding itself?
-Egyptians have always been infected with a virus causing them to do nothing, then they became active after the revolution until today. I call this virus A.I.H — Antagonism, Implacability and Hatred. If we got cured from this disease, oh my God, life in Egypt would be heaven. We have to look deep down inside of us and just stop it.
-You have dabbled in everything from acting to directing, and from photography and design to music... Which of these is your personal favourite?
-Essentially, a lot of them are hobbies that became one-day professions. But I would say they are all classified under the umbrella of director. That’s what I really am — a director without a single feature movie yet.
-In your opinion, which field are you best at?
-I really don’t know... Maybe after the release of my first movie people will help me decide.
-You direct and act in what could be classified as Egyptian alternative cinema. Was it your aim not to get involved in the mainstream or is this something you’d like to pursue in the future?
-My unfinished Masters degree in the US was going to be in alternative cinema and low budget movies. It was all about how to create a high budget picture with the lowest cost possible. And to be honest, this is what I really want to pursue. Films for the sake of art.
-You have a movie called Kabreet, which has been attracting media attention. What is happening with that?
-Kabreet preparations and the sample trailer started a year before the revolution, and every time we decided to move on with it, something happened to the country and its army. We were planning on shooting after Ramadan, but with the recent army removals, we don’t know what’s going to happen [as they are involved in the shooting process].
-I would really love to; when I have a film in hand, I will aim to enter such respectful festivals. Soon.
-What else are you working on at the moment?
-We’re preparing for another TV show next to the current one, as I can reveal that Rabbena Yostor is running for the whole coming year. Other than that, I am working on an awareness campaign that will be produced by Kheidr.com, because I am not sure if the government has the time to produce any awareness campaigns in the following months. Actually, I don’t think the word “awareness” exists in the new Egyptian vocabulary.
-Finally, in five years’ time, where do you want to be career-wise?
-I wish I can direct or star in an American-produced movie that shows Egyptians and Arabs from a different perspective. Not those with the camels and the desert and the sheep, but the real Arabs that you and I wish the whole world would see.