The Early Days of Egyptian Film Industry
With the advent of the 20th century, the Egyptian film industry emerged, turning Cairo into a Mecca for Arab artists, musicians, and cinephiles seeking to launch their careers and achieve stardom. Among these artists is Fadi al-Lawand, whose late father, Shaaban al-Lawand, was a renowned multidisciplinary artist working as a songwriter, painter, and calligrapher.
A Legacy in Egyptian Cinema
Nicknamed the “Sheikh of Artists” by the Lebanese media, Shaaban al-Lawand relocated to Kuwait, where his son Fadi was born, before settling in Cairo, where the family resided for three decades. Shaaban gained recognition in the Egyptian cinema industry as a painter of film posters and artworks displayed on billboards and cinema theaters. Additionally, he designed album covers for cassettes released by Morris Iskander’s Morriphone, a prominent music company responsible for early albums by renowned artists such as Latifa from Tunisia, Samira Said from Morocco, Warda from Algeria, and Talal al-Madah from Saudi Arabia.
A Childhood Shaped by Egyptian Culture
“I lived in Dokki, Cairo for thirteen years,” reminisces Fadi. I attended the well-known al-Orman School, and my memories of Egypt during my childhood remain vivid in my mind and heart.” Fadi’s deep connection to the film industry started at the age of five, as he was influenced by his father’s involvement. This allowed him to meet notable actors like Mahmoud Yassin and his wife Shahira, actress Isaad Younes during her early career, and veteran film and TV director Tayseer Abood. Fadi shares his fascination with Egyptian theater, particularly comedies by Mohamed Sobhy, such as the popular play “al-Joker” from the 1970s. He excelled as a child actor, often performing or imitating famous artists. However, in the late 1980s, the family had to return to Beirut due to the ongoing Civil War in Lebanon, as his father could no longer renew his Egyptian residency visa.
An Artistic Journey in Beirut
Upon their return to Beirut, Fadi delved into acting professionally at the young age of fourteen. His first experience was at The Piccadilly Theatre on Hamra Street, where he co-starred with the late actor Ibrahim Maraachli in a comic play called “Ibrahim Effendi and the 40 Thieves.” Fadi’s subsequent acting endeavors included working with another iconic comedian, Mahmoud Mabsot, famous for his portrayal of the comedic character Fahman. Fadi explains, “As I grew up, I studied arts at the Lebanese university while appearing in several Lebanese serials aired on LBC, Future, and various TV stations. Later, starting from the year 2000, I traveled across the Arab world, performing plays that I also wrote and directed at Arab theatrical festivals in Muscat, Jerash, and Doha.”
A New Chapter in Europe
Four years later, the al-Lawand family made another move, this time relocating to Belgium. Fadi, his wife, and his father, Shaaban al-Lawand, faced initial challenges upon arriving in Europe, making it difficult to continue pursuing their artistic endeavors. Fadi spent considerable time working and finalizing residency paperwork for himself and his family.
A Reconnection with the Middle East
Fadi’s reconnection with the Middle East’s artistic scene came in 2014 when he was invited as a jury member for the short film competition at the Muscat Film Festival. He had the opportunity to work alongside Egyptian star Nabila Ebeid, who served as the jury president. This experience allowed Fadi to reconnect with many Egyptian celebrities and reignite his passion for the region.
A Triumphant Return to Egypt
After two decades of absence, Fadi finally returned to Egypt this year. His return coincided with his invitation, among other international celebrities, to the Aswan International Women Film Festival. Fadi became the festival’s representative in Europe after meeting its president, Mohamed Abd el-Khalek, and its director, Hassan Abou el-Ela, at the Malmo Arab Film Festival the previous year. Fadi’s love for Egypt motivated him to contact European media and artists, inviting them to Aswan to promote the festival and Egypt as a whole. After attending the first edition held in February, he recognized the great potential of the Aswan festival in promoting tourism and culture, particularly in the Upper Egyptian region. Fadi praised Egyptians for their warm hospitality and their ability to engage with other cultures, creating a desire among visitors to return.
Establishing EMIEA: A Bridge Between Europe and Africa
Back in Flanders, Fadi successfully established EMIEA, which stands for Espace Mondiale d’Interculture Euro-Afrique (World Space for Intercultural Euro-African). This new association aims to organize an African-European festival and various artistic events that foster dialogue between Europe and Africa. Fadi also hopes to facilitate co-production deals between Egyptian film companies and their European counterparts, leading to the release of high-quality feature films in the near future.