Arab artists shine at Art Dubai 2022
Filmmaker Mohamed Diab Talks ‘Moon Knight,’ The First Marvel Project To Have An Arab Director
DUBAI: Representation matters. Not only the representation of ethnic origin, but of personal experience. As Egyptian director Mohamed Diab becomes the first Arab to direct a Marvel project with the highly anticipated “Moon Knight” limited series, it’s a landmark moment not only because of his nationality, but also because he was born, grew, prospered and suffered in Egypt. , living through the revolution and the painful reconstruction of his country, and eventually becoming one of its most important chroniclers.
“Part of my voice is what happened to me in the last 10 years. Everything that happened in Egypt, everything that happened to me during that experience, is who I am today. today,” Diab told Arab News. “It affects the way I handle every scene. I definitely have a different voice because of everything I’ve been through — everything we’ve been through as a people — and you’re going to feel that voice in the show.
“I’m not someone who’s obsessed with premieres, but I will say what’s unique about me getting the Marvel job is that I come straight from the Arab world,” Diab said. – who previously directed the award-winning films. Cairo 678″ (2010), “Clash” (2016) and “Amira” (2021) – continues.
That Diab applies this experience specifically to “Moon Knight” is particularly fitting. The character, who debuted in the comic “Werewolf by Night” #32 in 1975, received her powers as a result of a curse from an ancient Egyptian deity.
There was a major reason why Diab’s voice was so necessary to the project. While many Marvel comics of the 60s and 70s drew inspiration from cultures and mythologies around the world, they were written and drawn from a perspective foreign to the cultures they were influenced by, leading to depictions limitations – sometimes offensive – of these people. , places and stories.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has reintroduced these characters to a new generation over the past 14 years, there’s been a growing emphasis on getting it right this time around, which makes partners like Priceless Diab.
“I think it was very important that ‘Moon Knight’ was supervised by an Egyptian director. It depicts both modern Egypt and ancient Egypt, and usually both are portrayed in an Orientalist way, as something exotic and ‘other’, which to me is dehumanizing,” Diab explains. “I think Marvel did everything they could to make it right, and I think people watching the show have never seen Egypt portrayed as authentically as it is here, in the past or in the past. here.”
Part of Diab’s mission was not just to apply his own voice to the show, but to include the creative voices of as many Egyptians and Arabs as possible. Every Egyptian character in the series is portrayed by an actual Egyptian – something rarely, if ever, done in Hollywood – including the ancient deity who afflicts Moon Knight himself. Behind the scenes, Diab enlisted former collaborator Ahmed Hafez as one of the series’ editors, and renowned Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih to write the series’ score.
“I think it all added to the authenticity of the show, because they each excelled at their jobs in ways no one else could have. I hope it will open doors for others,” says Diab. “For me, it had to be a success, because that’s what would make Hollywood bring in more of Egypt and the Arab world. And it works so far – Marvel loved Hesham and Ahmed, for example, and I’m sure they will both work with them again.
Diab – as the series’ key creative voice along with creator Jeremy Slater – was integral to much more than capturing the Egyptian aspects of the series; he helped shape its entire aesthetic, so the show embraced elements that no Marvel project had before in terms of tone, style, and themes. He also personally convinced two actors who had long resisted being part of a superhero project – Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke – to come on board.
“The first guy we went with was Oscar, and the first thing he asked me when he saw my movies was, ‘What the hell are you doing here, man?’ Oscar was just coming out of big franchises, and I think he wanted to take a break, he wanted to do intimate films,” Diab says. “I tried to convince him that intimate films aren’t exclusive to budgets. can make your intimate movie on any scale.
Diab has finally earned Isaac’s trust in him, and more.
“Through the conversations with Mohamed and the trust I had in him, I really felt like there was room to do something really truthful, unique and exciting as an actor” , Isaac said. “And it ended up being like that for me.”
Hawke, who in addition to acting was twice nominated for an Oscar for writing, signed on after Diab’s pitch without even reading a script.
“The wonderful idea of hiring Mohamed to be our quarterback, to guide this ship, is that the films he made in Egypt are amazing,” says Hawke. “He’s not looking at this with the eyes of an American, he’s looking at this – and these deities, and this world – from the perspective of growing up in Egypt and having a lot to say about it. It’s exciting to to be around him that way.
Diab has also cast Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawy, best known for her role in the Golden Globe-winning sitcom “Ramy,” as one of the show’s leads.
“The character wasn’t written as an Egyptian at first. During development, I called her and asked her if she was free for a Marvel project. Well…to be honest, my wife reached out to her on Instagram,” Diab laughs. “She didn’t believe it at first – she even asked her agent if it was true.
“When the time came, she auditioned with Oscar, and that audition was fantastic. They loved her. She was a wonderful addition. She’s intellectual, passionate, down-to-earth and proud of her heritage. She knows who she is. is. She championed her character in the play, and as an Egyptian, she knew more about her character than anyone,” says Diab. “I have a feeling the character is going to be very popular with people around the world. whole because of what she brought to it.”
Ultimately, “Moon Knight” — which makes its international debut on Disney+ on March 30 and will premiere in the region this summer — is a show full of strangers who, in partnership with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and many others lent their creative voices to make this a Marvel project like no other.
“I think all of us together in a blender made the show a lot better,” Diab says.