Latifa: Youssef Chahine Fulfilled My Acting Aspirations
In an interview with the Kul Il Nas magazine, Tunisian songstress Latifa spoke of her first musical film, Sukut Ha Nsawar (Shush We’re Shooting) directed by the world renowned Youssef Chahine. She also sheds light on the rumors about her and Kathem El Saher, and comments on her views on motherhood.
Following are excerpts from the interview in Kalam El Nas:
Q: What does your new movie talk about and how did you take such a courageous decision to star in it?
A: One day, young director Khaled Youssef, the assistant to the great Youssef Chahine called me and said “Youssef Chahine would like to see you.” I of course went to the appointment. As soon as I walked into the room, the director just studied my face. He then started asking me questions one of which was, am I ready to act on the silver screen! I could not believe how much joy I was feeling and I literally jumped up and said ‘I wish!’ He then reached over to his desk drawer, opened it, and took out a file.
‘Take this script and read it more than once. You will be the next star of my movie,’ he said!
I nearly danced when I was going back home... Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamt of being in a movie. In all my video clips, I tend to act because I love the art. I was always in love with the great actresses of Egypt such as Leila Murad, Shadia, Sabah and Suad Husni and I always saw myself in every one of their roles. Oh, and one more thing, Suad Husni was the best actress ever to sing in film!
Q: Who is the protagonist of the movie?
A: Aside from me, it is the new actor Ahmad Wafiq along with Majida Al Khatib, Ahmad Bdeir and Sana Younnes, as well as various other actors and actresses.
Q:What does this experience mean to you?
A: It is my chance of a lifetime… Every artist in Egypt and the Arab world wishes, if only once, to be part of a movie directed by the genius director Youssef Chahine.
Q: Have you seen any of his films?
A: Of course. I have seen all his movies including Bab El Hadid (The Iron Door), Al Maseer (The Destiny), Iskindiriah Leih (Alexandria Why), Iskindiriah Kaman Wi Kaman (Alexandria More and More), Al Muhagher (The Immigrant) and more.
Q:Who is writing the movie’s songs and who is composing them?
A: Everything in the movie is the responsibility of Youssef Chahine, even the make-up and hairstyles, which he chose from Paris. He also chose the costume designer and picked out the clothes for my appearance on the live TV show ‘Layali Al Talfizyon.’ He got the costume from the famous Tunisian designer Susha. He did this because my appearance in the show will be part of the movie. We will even use the audience present for the shoot.
Tentatively chosen, the writer of the songs is poet Jamal Bakheet and poetress Kawthar Mustafa. The composing is Omar Kheirt. I have always wanted to use his music and so fate has now led him to me.
As for the choreography of the shows, Karim Al Tunisi will do the job, and I am training with him everyday, with Chahine’s presence of course.
Q: What about the acting?
A: I am learning everyday about the rules of acting and I am given directions by Mohammad Abdul Hadi.
Q: Talk to us about marriage and motherhood.
A: I am like any other girl, waiting for the perfect marriage where I can have half a dozen children, just like our house. Marriage is luck and when it comes it will come. I cannot hide that the best days of my life were when I met the great composer and musician Mohammad Abdul Wahab, as well as when I met Baleegh Hamdi or writer Abdul Wahab Mohammad, God rest all their souls. However, nothing compares to the time when I met the great director Youssef Chahine.
Q: At a time in your life, you worked with a closed group of composers and musicians. Didn't you think of using them again?
A: I consider myself the luckiest person when I think about the opportunities I have had, including the chance to sing for famous love-poet Nizar Qabani as well as Abdul Wahab Mohammad and others. Soon, I will work with the great Baha’a Eddine Mohammad.
In the coming days, I will release some songs that were composed by some of my colleagues from the Music Institute. I think those composers have a great future in the field. The names I can remember off-hand are Mohammad Abdul Salam and Amar.
Q: What about Kathem El Saher?
A: Again?! What is up with Kathem El Saher?! Kathem is a sensitive composer and singer, who is a friend and a brother. I am good friends with his wife and kids. All that is between us is a friendship and please don’t believe any rumors. I am honestly declaring that when I marry, I will not marry anyone in the field, be it music, acting or directing.
My relationship with Kathem is work related; he composed some songs Wa Wahashtikash (You Didn’t Miss Me?), Taloumni Al Dunya (The World Blames Me) for my albums and more… We also did a duet together.
Q: Did you ever work together again?
A: Currently there is nothing to work on, but I will never let go of him. Maybe in the future I will ask him for another great song.
Q: Could your first ever movie be compared to the elegance of old musical movies?
A: I wish with all my heart that this is the case… And I know that working with director Youssef Chahine is an international school concerned with presenting great pillars of cinema.
Q: Who is your favorite singer?
A: Without a doubt, I love Um Kulthum, Abdul Halim Hafez, Mohammad Abdul Wahab and the great Lebanese Fairuz.
Q: How about the younger generation?
A: Hani Shaker, Mohammad Munir, Ali Al Hajjar, Mohammad Al Hilou, Samira Saeed, Angham, Ghada Rajb and Kathem El Saher.
I also like the Tunisian songstress Amina Fakhet and I hope she comes to Cairo in order to achieve the fame she deserves.
Furthermore, I like some Lebanese singers like Majida Al Roumi, Julia Butrus, Najwa Karam, Nawal El Zughbi and Diana Haddad.
With Julia Butrus, I see a woman with a beautiful voice who has not yet achieved the success she deserves. I advise her to come to Egypt where her fame will increase. Egypt is the Arab country that makes artists famous.
Q: Who in your opinion is the Arabic singer who is able to achieve international success?
A: I swear, we have great voices that could achieve such successes, if given the chance, but I think that the closest we have to that at the moment is Amro Diab.
Q: Who is your closest friend?
A: I have tons of friends, men and women, but the ones closest to my heart and soul are Habiba Umry and Doris Maurice Iskandar, who is after me day and night with prospective suitors… I feel like she is my sister, mother and friend… She wants me to marry and have a son who will play with her five-year-old Maurice. In Tunisia I have my lifelong friends, with whom my relationship extends for half a century!
Q: I have noticed that you space out every time a flock of birds pass by?
A: Yes that is true, the most beautiful thing about my apartment is that it overlooks the Fish Park that has many trees and therefore is filled with birds. The birds fly towards the small bed of water, drink then go back to their nests. I look at them constantly, watching, then I raise my head up to the sky and I say ‘Behold the creator of the world, man, bird and animal… I ask for your forgiveness and health’ – Albawaba.com.
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