With his latest directorial feat, Love's Improvisations, hitting the international film festival circuit and leaving with prizes, we talk to Youssef El Deeb to find out more about the movie and the labour of love that was making it.
Media mogul, Youssef El Deeb, has long been a heavy-weight in the region, having established the Middle East’s first dedicated cooking channel, Fatafeat, and bringing in MuchMusic! Channel to the Arab world. He’s also directed hundreds of commercials in his time, and even went on to produce Doreid Laham’s Al Abaa Al Seghar and Best Film winner at 2006’s Cairo International Film Festival, Ass we Lazk. With such accomplishments under his belt, you’d expect someone in his position to start taking it easy but El Deeb is just not that kind of guy.
Having sold Fatafeat, El Deeb recently established Picture Pond Media and is flexing his creative muscles, having premiered his latest directorial achievement, feature film Love’s Improvisations (Takaseem El Hob), at last year’s Dubai Film Festival. And what an achievement it was; it wasn’t long before the movie hit the global festival circuit, most recently being awarded at the London International Film Festival for actor Nicolas Mouawad’s role as Omar, the love-struck protagonist, to Darine El Khatib’s Mira. We talk to Youssef El Deeb about the movie, his experiences on set and what’s next for the man who doesn’t seem to stop.
Who or what inspired the story of Omar and Mira? Is it based on true events that you might have encountered?
Love’s Improvisations is not based on any specific events, but rather the scenes in the film are an amalgam of observations on love and relationships.
While you've mentioned you didn't have an audience reaction in mind when making the film, when you look at it objectively, what do you think the key messages or lessons learnt from the film are?
Being a work of this nature, the experience itself, for me and the actors, was a goal in itself. As much as it sounds like a cliché, we truly enjoy working together, creating as a community, and seeing how the end product that comes out of the collaboration ends up. It’s important for me personally that I work just like that. It’s important in this type of work, to remain true and focused on your inner voice, to trust your instinct and just create with all the passion that you can muster. This will happen only if you work with great artists and if you trust your gut.
How has the characters being Arab and the film being set in the Middle East affected the storyline, in your eyes?
The story is about love. It could take place anywhere, But we Arabs have a unique way of sharing our love with our partners, I believe that is a little more open, more vocal.
Is there a reason you chose to have Lebanese characters?
I am half Lebanese, half Egyptian, and 99% Canadian, so the nationalities are totally irrelevant. The actors are Lebanese but love is universal, so therefore it didn’t matter where the story takes please. It took place in an apartment in Beirut, though we filmed in Dubai and built a set that was visually places in Lebanon.
What hopes do you have for the film in the future?
Like any film, it needs to be seen. Being an 'art-house' film, this poses problems in the Middle East as we do not nurture this type of cinema.
Will we see another Youssef El-Deeb picture soon?
After we sold Fatafeat, I established Picture Pond Media. We are working on a small collection of works, some for TV some for cinema. So, yes. Soon.
Find out more about Love's Improvisations and Picture Pond Media here.