Syrian actress Sulaf Fawakherji is a star who combines culture and politics with her artistic talent. She is not afraid of the criticism she faces for her political views on Syria, her homeland. She loves Syria, even if it is the worst country. She says that she does not choose political works, but art is always related to politics. She is against categorization and labels. She also expresses her joy at being honoured at the first edition of the Hurghada Festival. She considers it a blessed honour because it comes from Egypt, the mother of the world. She praises the idea of a festival for youth, who are the future of cinema and life.
Could you tell us about your honouring at the Hurghada Festival in its first edition?
I am very happy to be honoured in Egypt, a country that welcomes its guests with warmth and hospitality. I feel at home in Egypt, whether I am honoured or not. We Syrians love you very much. I thank the Hurghada Youth Film Festival, its president Mohamed Al-Basousi, the Red Sea governorate, and the Ministry of Antiquities for their love and reception. I am also happy to be with this wonderful group of stars who are being honoured with me. I thank the festival for giving me this opportunity and for letting me receive the honour from the great star Hussein Fahmy. The festival is a great idea to support youth, who are interested in life and cinema. When they are connected and supported, we can create a better future. Youth is ambition, enthusiasm, ideas, and adventure. They are like cinema, a beautiful and amazing world. The festival is new, but it started with strength and success. I expect it to be one of the biggest festivals.
Your picture with the award “Tutankhamun” while you were kissing it made us feel that you love antiquities. Is this due to your study of antiquities?
[She laughs] It is not just about antiquities, but I consider it a kiss on Egypt’s forehead, out of respect and appreciation for Egypt’s history and heritage. Tutankhamun is a symbol of youth and represents them in some way. I wanted to give kisses to all Egyptians spontaneously. I also played the role of Cleopatra before, so I feel a connection with Ancient Egyptian history.
How did you find working in Egypt when you presented your first film, and did you find any difficulties or obstacles in the film community?
Some may think I am exaggerating, but I swear I did not face any difficulties or obstacles. Egypt was a blessing for me since I came to film my role in the movie “Halim” with the late star Ahmed Zaki. I was lucky to be part of it despite the sadness we felt because of his illness.
In this movie, how did you feel about your scenes with the late star Ahmed Zaki?
This film was a significant milestone in my artistic career. It was a tense and anxious time because of the star Ahmed Zaki’s health condition. We were waiting for a miracle, but sadly, I did not have any scenes with him. My scenes were with his late son Haitham Ahmed Zaki. However, I met the star Ahmed Zaki on the day of the premiere, and he complimented me, greeted me warmly, and kissed me on my forehead. It was a great honour for me.
The “Asmahan” series brought you closer to the Egyptian audience. Did you feel that?
Yes, I felt that the Egyptian audience loved me and appreciated my work. The character of Asmahan was a special one in my dramatic journey. I lived her life and felt her emotions. The key to her personality was the obsession that haunted me because she always thought she would die young. She did everything fast because she loved life and wanted to enjoy it while feeling that life was short.
What did you learn from Asmahan’s character?
I learned from her quick ambition, fast pace, and the pursuit of success in a short time because life is precious.
Is this why you practiced directing and writing as well as acting, and also studied archeology?
[She laughs] Yes, I am ambitious, but in a good way because I always have a passion for learning and developing myself and my knowledge. I was four years old when I watched and imitated the artist Naima Akef. I learned drawing and sculpture, then studied archaeology. But my greatest passion was acting, and the dream stayed with me until I got the chance to star in Raymond Boutros’s film “Al-Tirhal”, and then “Naseem Al-Rouh” with Abdel Latif Abdel Hamid. I also learned and practiced directing and writing, and I have been striving to learn all my life. I am currently preparing for a master’s degree in archaeology.
Did you have any fear about directing the movie “Cherry Letters”?
I chose the movie “Cherry Letters” to be my first directing experience because I love challenges and I learned a lot from it. I was not afraid to try something new because, as I told you before, I am passionate, I love learning, and I am not afraid of the outcomes.
Did growing up in a political household affect your artistic choices, as well as what is happening in Syria?
Growing up in a family that was interested in politics, where my father was a political writer and my mother was a novelist, shaped my political awareness and social responsibility. I was raised according to certain values. I am an Arab woman who is influenced by her environment and circumstances, especially the war years in Syria.
Do you think the artist should have a political role or a political point of view, or do you think some artists are afraid to express their opinions because of the public’s reaction?
The artist is a part of his society, and he has a duty to his homeland. He should have a voice and a stance. I am not afraid to speak my mind, and what matters to me is my country and my perspective. Some people may agree with me and some may disagree, but we all love our country in our way.
How do you evaluate the drama production in Syria in light of the situation the country is facing?
The situation in Syria has affected the television drama and the number of productions has decreased significantly, but it was important to keep working to show that Syria is resilient and that life goes on despite the war. You can imagine how we filmed under shelling, under difficult conditions, and great challenges. We wanted to tell the world that Syria is still alive.
What are your latest artistic projects?
I am currently filming the movie “Salma” with director Jude Saeed, and I am very excited about it. I hope it will be well-received by the audience when it is released, and we will participate in many festivals with it.