Tuesday, November 22, 2022

44th Cairo Int'l Film Festival: In Conversation with Egyptian Star Lebleba

Amina Abdel-Halim

Friday 18 Nov 2022

As part of its Cairo Industry Days programme, the 44th Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) held a talk entitled In Conversation with Egyptian Star Lebleba

(Photo: CIFF)

In its 44th edition, the CIFF has honored Lebleba with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. It celebrates her extensive acting career, which began in her early childhood, and her unquantifiable contributions to Egyptian cinema throughout the ages. 

Ramses introduced the legendary actress and prefaced the talk with a word of appreciation for Lebleba, whom he described as “one of the most dedicated actors I have met throughout my career.” 

In the discussion, the Egyptian star shared anecdotes about her acting journey —valuable insights not only into her life but also into the evolution of national cinema throughout the ages. She began with a short introduction to her first steps into acting, saying “I did not choose to become an actress. My family saw that I had a talent for performance when I was just three years old. My mother, especially, could tell very early on that I was special.”

As a child, Lebleba loved to impersonate people. From her friends and family, she went on to give sharp impressions of the renowned actors of her day. When she was just five years old, the artist was noticed and subsequently scouted by two renowned figures, Anwar Wagdi and Abo El Seoud El Ibiary, who gave Lebleba her very first role in Niazi Mustafa’s My Dear Sousou (Habibti Sousou). From then on, the young artist quickly skyrocketed to stardom.

“I am incredibly lucky to have worked with the greatest directors in Egyptian cinema,” said Lebleba, who went on to cite director Atef El Tayeb as a special mentor and particular influence on her career, saying: “Atef El-Tayeb was a great teacher of mine. I love working with demanding directors [like him], because it pushes me to do my absolute best.”

Another great influence on Lebleba’s career and acting style was, in her view, Youssef Chahine, with whom she worked on the 1999 drama film, The Other (Al Akhar). She recounted that when she first began work on the film, Chahine invited her onto the set and asked her to spend time in her character, Baheyya’s, home, so she could become more intimately acquainted with her on-screen persona.

“Ever since, whenever I play a new character, I want to spend time in their environment so I can get to know them better,” explained Lebleba. She noted the long-lasting impact of this experience on her artistic process, which helped shape her into the star audiences know and love today. 

Throughout the discussion, Lebleba sang passages from her most memorable musical performances, including the titular song from her very first film, My Dear Sousou, while spectators clapped and sang along. During the Q&A, one audience member asked her to perform one of the impersonations that propelled her to child stardom, to which she obliged, offering a delightful impression of beloved singer and actress Fayza Ahmed. 

Lebleba’s fellow actors and former co-stars, including Mahmoud Hemeida, Laila Elwi, and Elham Shahin, took turns congratulating the acclaimed actress on a well-deserved award and a stellar career by all measures. 

CIFF President Hussein Fahmi, also in attendance, stated, “The first person I suggested for the Lifetime Achievement Award was Lebleba, and the selection committee unanimously agreed.” 

He described this award as “long overdue,” to which Lebleba responded, “It is my greatest joy to be honored while Hussein Fahmy is the President of the Cairo International Film Festival. Nothing makes me happier,” she concluded. 


This article was originally published in CIFF's daily Bulletin. 18 November 2022, issue 5.

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