In a world where art has turned into a commercial industry from which people aim to make the highest profits, Aly Sobhy has proven to be a real artist who flies far from the flock. With his remarkable understanding of the crucial role of arts in societies, he began his artistic career with people in the streets then moved to the silver screen to reach a bigger audience.
In 2006, Sobhy co-starred in Dead Money (Feloos Mayeta in Arabic) by Rami Abduljabbar, a film that won the best short feature award at the National Film Festival. He also acted in Tamer El Said’s The Last Days of the City, which recently won the Caligari Prize at Berlinale and the Grand Prix at the Festival Des 3 Continents.
His most recent film, Ali, the Goat, and Ibrahim, directed by Sherif El Bendary, with participation from Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, won various prizes in the development and post-production phase. Recently, he was awarded the best actor’s prize for his portrayal of Ali Meaza at the Dubai International Film Festival.
In an exclusive interview with Daily News Egypt, Sobhy revealed some secrets about his artistic beginnings and how he prepared for his outstanding role as Ali. He also discussed his upcoming artistic projects.
How and when did your artistic career begin?
I began acting when I was 14 with Studio Mansour Mohamed, where I started establishing my artistic skills. We studied acting, modern theatrical dance, and singing. I then moved to school theatre, where I was awarded the prize of best actor in Egypt (for school theatre) twice in a row.
I then moved to independent theatre, where I co-founded Hala Troupe for street performance, which existed from 2001 until 2010. In 2011, I, along with several street performers and theatre-makers living in Egypt, founded Outa Hamra (Red Tomato) for Modern Circus Arts and Social Theatre. I was then introduced to independent cinema through my work with Hala, through which I worked several times as both an actor and a crew member.
Why did you choose to act on the street as a clown? How did performing on the street develop your talent?
From the very beginning, I set street theatre as one of my priorities. One of my goals was to reach the people because they stopped going to theatres. I started asking myself: why don’t we go to them? As time passed, I believed even more that it is a very important tool to change the common beliefs of society; beliefs that are tied to accepting the other and peaceful co-existence. As for choosing to be a clown, in my opinion, clowning is a performance that brought us closer to the audiences of the streets. It made people like us, trust us, and accept us because we approach them with a smile and make them laugh. As we say in Outa Hamra: to have fun is our serious business.
As previously mentioned, I have been learning and continuously working on myself since the age of 14. Performing on the street requires dedication and continuous training, education, and development. The experience of being both a street performer and a social clown enhanced my all-in-all artistic skills. But it also brought me closer to people and that’s one of my main goals.
How were you chosen for Ali, the Goat, and Ibrahim?
When the idea of the story was in its development phase, I was there with Ibrahim El Batout. Back then, I was contributing to the story and the character. When Sherif El Bendary, thankfully, took it upon his shoulders to direct the movie, he was convinced that I should be Ali Meaza. He bet on me and fought for me to take this role.
How did you prepare for your role in the film?
Of course, Sherif is a very dedicated director. Along with Ahmed Amer, the scriptwriter, they did everything to prepare Ahmed Magdy and me for the filming process. We worked for three months with acting coach Luke Lehner, building the bond between Ali and Ibrahim. I have to add that Ahmed Magdy has been extremely supportive. He helped me prepare for the role, and was extremely giving and always had my back.
What are the main messages this film is trying to convey?
Ali, the Goat, and Ibrahim is about people who are different from the norm. People who aren’t accepted by their society for who they are. Essentially, the film is about accepting the other.
Do you have any future plans or artistic projects?
Yes. My plan is to continue acting and clowning. I want to continue working on what I believe in. In my opinion, the beautiful thing about Ali, the Goat, and Ibrahim is that it connects so tightly to my very own project, Outa Hamra, as both speak of social acceptance, the end of prejudice, and peaceful co-existence. I dream of continuing to make films and projects that express the voices of the people who are so often not listened to, and that touch the souls of audiences whether on the big screen or on the streets with Outa Hamra.