Cairo has always been the Hollywood of the Arab world, with many Arab performers dreaming of relocating to Egypt. Following in the footsteps of superstars whose careers have taken off in Egypt - like Tunisians Hend Sabry and Dorra and Moroccan artists Sandy, Latifa and Feryal Youssef - comes Fatma Nasser, who has finally found her big break. by Sherif Awad
The Tunisian-born beauty received positive reviews for her supporting roles on the big and small screen, and this year she headlines the romantic drama Rouge, coming soon to cinema screens.
Like many of her generation, Nasser grew up watching classic Egyptian black and white films on Tunisian national television. Her introduction to the Egyptian entertainment scene came by accident while on vacation in Cairo when she was cast in an early short film directed by Amr Salama titled The Advertisement (2006). Her performance caught the attention of Egyptian director Ihab Lamee, who cast her in On Air, a light comedy feature that found its way to the Cairo Film Festival in 2007.
Many supporting roles in films and TV series followed, notably in Tell Us, Scheherazade Tell (2009) and Bitter Sugar (2015). Nasser returned to her homeland to appear in films and television. She starred in the short Tunisian film Clean Soap directed by Maleyka Emar (2010) and the feature Free (2015) by Moaz Kamoun. The latter was screened last year at the Alexandria Mediterranean Film Festival (AMFF). Following a co-starring role opposite Hany Salama in his TV series My Destiny, Your Destiny, Nasser returned last September to AMFF to present her first starring role Rouge, a romantic drama co-starring Amir Salah. First-time feature director John Ikram helms Rouge, which follows beautician Wafaa, played by Nasser, over the course of a single evening in which she decides to commit suicide. Delivery man Hassan saves her, and a night full of surprises unfolds. From Tunisia to Egypt
Looking back at her journey to fame, Nasser says Egypt has been central to her success. “In 10 years, I acted in Egypt more than Tunisia,” Nasser tells Egypt Today in an exclusive interview. “The Egyptian film and TV industry are bigger and more popular across the Arab world. So far, my favorite two appearances were on TV in two TV series: After the Beginning in 2015 and Exit in 2016, although I target cinema as my priority.”
“When you do something you love, you will be busy all the time developing yourself, searching for the best and eager to keep your fans’ love,” Nasser says. The Tunisian actress left behind a successful career in banking to follow her dream. “When I left my job in the bank I was relieved,” she says, likening her experience to a break-up that encouraged her to explore “everything I love and I never did.”
"No matter how many hours you work, how many days you spent to make a masterpiece for your fans, love is the main reason for everything," Nasser says. "Do what you love and insist on doing what you love.”
Nasser says she was immediately attracted to the role of Wafaa, the middle-class young woman and the main character in Rouge (the film represented Egypt in both the Mediterranean Feature Competition and the Arab Feature Competition during AMFF last month). “I liked the change that her character goes through - from desperation to believing that fate is stronger than any human being’s will.”
On the red carpet, whether at the AMFF or at the premieres of her films, Nasser always draws crowds of photographers angling to get a shot of her and her eye-catching dresses. “I really show up to connect with filmmakers I don’t know, and of course to promote my new outings,” says Nasser. Last year, Nasser caught the attention of Moroccan filmmaker Hassan Benjelloun in Alexandria at the screening of her Tunisian film Free selected for the competition. Benjelloun cast her for his next film, which comes out next year.
Now that she has established a name of herself in the Arab world, Nasser has her heart set on going international. Hoping to follow in the footstep of many Arab actors, she is currently seeking an agent in the UK or the US. “I’m fluent in both French and English, and given I have a universal look I am sure I can make it on the international scene,” she says.
In the meantime, fans can soon expect to see her latest film Rough Seas. “This new drama was shot entirely in a Tunisian village," Nasser says, "and is set during the 1950s during the struggle for independence from France.”