Interview: Palme d'Or-winning Alum Muhammad Taymour

Considering that Muhammad Taymour only started working professionally as a producer in 2018, he's not doing too badly. He was a Talent with us in Berlin in 2019 and, less than two years later, is an award-winning producer.

The latest short film he produced, I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face, directed by Sameh Alaa, won the Palme d'Or for Short Films at last year's special three day Festival de Cannes event in October. It marked the first nomination for any short film in the history of Egyptian cinema, and better still the first win.

We caught up with our fast-moving alum to discuss his recent successes under the motif of our 2021 theme of Dreams.

Muhammad Taymour © Omar Al-Gharuri
Muhammad Taymour © Omar Al-Gharuri

What did you dream about last night?

I don't dream a lot in my sleep at night and when I do I rarely remember them. I do however have a lot of day dreams!

The last dream that I can remember having at night was about me getting lost in tonnes of work that I have to finish by a certain time, and perfectly, but I never finish and I never stop running from something behind me but I can't see what it is! Every so often, I wake up and realise that I am of course still just in my bed so I sleep again but I think this dream reflects my current workload in real life.

The past year has for many been something of a nightmare, how did you manage to turn it around into to the dream it has been for you?

I have been using denial to deal with real life. It's a defence mechanism I have used to tell myself, to convince myself, that I am safe here at home; denial of the negative and acceptance of the positive. I am confined, yes, and unable to lead my normal life but I can fight it with productivity, and that has been my mechanism. I started to read some books I wanted to read, I talked with friends and strangers about the current situation to share ideas and reflections and I started working on several film projects in a planned way, first to try to distract myself and ignore the existence of Coronavirus and second to be immersed in an activity which is so interesting for me. Like that, I was able to take charge of my time and utilize it in a very productive, satisfying way!

Professionally it's been crazy. In 2018 I started to work professionally as a film producer with an Egyptian company called Fig Leaf Studios and I realised how much I'm into film production and then I worked in the same year on few projects. I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face was among them; it was my first film as the main producer.

I worked with Sameh [Alaa] the director on the film creatively since November 2018 and we prepared for everything together in terms of financing, crew hiring and everything until the shooting happened in February 2020 just one month before the official pandemic happened in Cairo. We didn't know what would happen but it turned out to be a huge success and an unbelievable dream that came true. I dreamt about winning the Palme d’Or moment seven years ago in 2013, I played with the idea indirectly in one of my video artworks at the time, and here I am now and it has come true!

What is the next dream, or vision, your daydream for the future?

Wow, I have a lot of daydreams so there isn’t just one!

Well, my next dream/vision is to establish a producers’ community or guild in Egypt because producers here lack access to all the necessary information and education in order to work on their projects in a professional way. I want to lead a group of producers, a community interested in sharing the many common experiences we have had in our films and exchanging the kind of knowledge we all need; having the space, time and ability to help each other.

Of course I will also be working on several short films and features, and would like to accomplish further successes for Egyptian cinema abroad.

I also want to share my personal experience and my individual readings with all the junior producers who are just starting out and want to produce their films. My intention is to do so through teaching, so I'm working on starting an online Masters degree in International Film Business and Cinema Studies.

An Egyptian producer, director and video artist born in 1985, Muhammad Taymour's works are characterised by being personal experiences yet can also easily reach different segments of international audiences. Time, memory, nostalgia, and static images are all elements that are obviously presented in his works.

Since 2018 he is working as a producer with Fig Leaf production company in Alexandria.

In 2020, his short film as a producer “I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face/ ستاشر” won the prestigious Palme d’Or award in Festival De Cannes – Short Film Competition (2020). This Palme d’Or award marks the first Palme d'Or award for Egypt in the festival history

Other Awards:

- Special Jury Award in 9th MADATAC video in Madrid – Video name: “The Caller” - Spain – 2018

- Best Director in 3rd edition of Zawya film festival - "From the remains of the Dead" – Cairo - 2018

Experiences:

- EAVE on DEMAND workshop for feature fiction films development as a producer in which was held during the 40th and the 41st edition of CIFF (Cairo International Film Festival) in Egypt for two years consecutively (2018,2019)

- Cairo Film Connection Platform Pitching sessions in the 41st edition of CIFF (Cairo International Film Festival) for the documentary feature film “The Life and Times of Omar Sharif” – (2019)

- Talents Berlin (2019): Berlinale Talents program in the 69th Berlin film festival in Germany. He participated as Director/Producer and the only Egyptian participant in the program for 2019

- Talents Beirut (2017): Selected in the editing talents group in Talents Beirut which is a side project from Talents Berlin. (Berlin Film Festival)

- (TFL) Torino Film Lab Meeting Event (2016): Selected in TFL meeting event to attend pitching of selected film projects and vote for the audience award