Hani Salama: The star who started from the top

Kadry Al-Haggar
10 Min Read

Hani Salama is one of the most prominent and successful actors in Egypt. He has starred in many acclaimed films and dramas, both in Egypt and abroad. He entered the world of art by coincidence when he was discovered by the legendary director Youssef Chahine, who became his mentor and his inspiration. He recently received an honour from the Hurghada Youth Film Festival for his artistic achievements, which span over two decades. He still has aspirations and dreams in the world of cinema that he wants to fulfill.

How do you feel about being honoured by the Hurghada Youth Film Festival in its first session?

I am very happy and grateful for this honour, especially since the festival focuses on youth cinema. I am glad to support the festival and I hope it will continue to grow and succeed. I was honoured to be among a distinguished group of stars from Egypt and the Arab world.

Are you satisfied with your artistic journey in the world of cinema?

Yes, I am satisfied with my artistic journey. Although I did not present many works, I chose them carefully and tried to diversify my roles and genres. I started my career with the great director Youssef Chahine, who was my mentor and my spiritual father. I also worked in dramas and series, and I always seek to improve myself and learn from every experience.

Do you regret any of the works that you presented?

No, I don’t regret any of them. I believe that every work has taught me something new and helped me develop my skills and style. I don’t like to dwell on the past, but rather look forward to the future and what it holds for me.

Why do you think cinema is not in its best condition nowadays?

I think cinema has suffered from the political and social turmoil that affected Egypt and the Arab world after the revolution. Cinema depends on marketing and distribution, both internally and externally, and these factors have been disrupted by the instability and unrest in many countries. This has led to a decline in production and a loss of audience. However, I see that the situation is improving now and production is resuming, although not at the same level as before. I hope that cinema will regain its strength and glory, because we have a rich history and culture in this industry, and we have a lot of talent and potential. I hope that the state and the officials will pay more attention to cinema and art because they are soft powers that can enhance our image and identity in the world. I am optimistic about the future, and I believe that cinema will rise again as it did before. We have made some of the greatest films in the history of cinema, and we have influenced generations of Arabs with our language and our art.

Why did you take a long break from cinema?

It was not my choice to stay away from cinema, but I was always looking for a good, different, and distinctive cinematic work. I don’t know if I was lucky or not, but I started my career with a top-notch director, and this made me search for something that would match or surpass the big step that I had taken.

You said that you were lucky to debut with director Youssef Chahine, why?

Yes, I was very lucky to start with a world-class director like Youssef Chahine. He was not just a director, but a whole school of filmmaking. He taught me everything about the industry, and I learned from him the value of work and commitment. I was not a student of cinema, but he made me see the world through his eyes, and he guided me on an exploratory journey into this art.

Did you find it difficult to work with other directors after Youssef Chahine?

Every director has his vision and style, and working with different directors is a good thing that enriches the artist and shows his versatility. But the truth is that Youssef Chahine’s school was unique and incomparable. He cannot be compared to anyone else.

Was your entry into art a coincidence, and did you want to be a pilot?

[He laughs] Yes, it was a coincidence. I never dreamed of being an actor and I wanted to be a pilot. But then I met Youssef Chahine, who discovered my talent and cast me in the film Destiny. Years before that, I had been offered a role in the film The Date Palm Tree, but I couldn’t do it because of travel reasons. Years later, I got a call from Youssef Chahine’s office to choose me for the lead role in Destiny. Even after that, I didn’t think that I would continue on this path, but with time, I realized that this was my passion and my profession. I owe it all to Youssef Chahine, who made me love art and acting.

The latest series you presented last year was “A Secret File”, and it achieved great success. There were rumors that it would have a second part. Is that true?

Thank God, the series was well-received and successful, and it made me happy. But I don’t like the idea of making a second part of any artistic work in general, especially since A Secret File ended its story with the first part. There is no intention from the makers to make a new part for it. As for me, I prefer to present a new and different artistic work with a better idea than to repeat myself in a second part.

What are the main factors that influence your artistic choices?

I mainly rely on my intuition and the theme that I want to explore and discuss through cinema or television. I prefer themes that allow me to express my opinion and have a good space to show my personality.

What do you think is the message that art conveys to the audience and society?

Art is a soft power that can raise awareness and challenge perspectives. Art, in my view, is a way of presenting problems and solutions in a different and impactful way. Art can shape the viewer’s conscience, culture, mind, and thoughts. These are the things that I consider when I choose any role.

How do you deal with social media and its impact on you as an artist?

Social media sites have become important and influential, not only for artists but for everyone. But to be honest, I think they have more drawbacks and harms than benefits and advantages. My relationship with social media is limited and does not go beyond talking about my work. I keep my private life away from social media.

What is the role of women in Hani Salama’s life?

Women have a major role in my life. A woman is a mother, a sister, a wife, and a daughter. My mother gave me love, care, support, and encouragement throughout my life. My wife has a major role in all the successes that I have achieved in my life. She always supports me, manages the house, and raises the girls. She plays the role of both mother and father most of the time because I am busy with filming and working. So women have an important part in my life.

Do you consult your wife and daughters about your artistic works?

Yes, my wife, my daughters, and my family are the closest circle in my life. I consult them and get their opinions on everything that concerns me. I also like to know their feedback on the works that I present after they are shown on screen. They are very honest with me because they know that it helps me and serves my interest.

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