Award-winning Egyptian actress Yousra has more than 80 film and television credits to her name.
Having risen to fame during the 1980s and 1990s, Yousra remains one of the region’s highest paid stars and she’s also been named one of the world’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women.
During her presence at the second edition of the El Gouna Film Festival, Yousra talks to Inspire Middle East about the state of Arab cinema today, plus shares her views about social media and returning to singing after a ten-year hiatus.
ARAB CINEMA TODAY
The Arab icon highlights the influential power of Arab cinema, as “the most important soft weapon in the world,” but regrets the lack of funding and international distribution of films.
“It’s not easy now to make a production with high standards,” she says, “And we don’t make films as before. Before, we used to make 120 films per year, now it’s about 20 films.”
“[Seeing more Arab films dubbed] is one of my dreams,” Yousra adds, “I made a co-production of more than six films - sometimes dubbed in English, sometimes dubbed in French - and it was extremely successful. I wish we could do this through all our films.”
Having faced criticism from some conservatives for her outspoken views on topics from regional unrest to corruption, nowadays Yousra prefers not to be on social media at all.
“Social media has become really against humanity, not with humanity,” she says, “It has become an obsession for other people to know what you’re doing. If they like it, they will put you over the moon, and if they don’t, they will strongly criticize you. So, this is something I cannot deal with.”
Yousra adds that rising to fame has become easier for upcoming stars due to social media. She doesn’t believe, however, that this is necessarily positive for the culture of the wider industry.
“People are famous through social media without really making an effort. This for me, is very unacceptable.” she says firmly.
On the other hand, the artist admits that online platforms can be a useful tool for new filmmakers.
“It’s a very good thing for them,” she says, “With no money, they can simply go and take their cameras and work all over the place. They make their films and they can show them to the whole world.”
HIT SONG ‘3 DAQAT’
DurIng last year’s edition of the El Gouna Film Festival, Yousra sang publicly for the first time in a decade with the hit song ‘3 Daqat’, a duet with Egyptian singer Abu.
Yousra explained that her musical comeback was not entirely planned.
“Everything was so spontaneous, no calculations; nothing of that sort,” she says.
The living legend received a phone call from a friend who showed her Abu’s song, upon which she decided to lay down a soundtrack recording of it.
“I listened and I fell in love,” says Yousra, “I told him “Bring the mic.” I did it, I made it in one hour - sixteen times. I said, “Choose whatever you need. I’m leaving. If my voice is not appropriate - delete!”
The song became one of 2017’s most viral hits, having reached more than 350 million views on YouTube. Yousra believes that the public’s fondness for the composition reflects her own.
“It just went into my heart and it revived a lot of beautiful feelings,” she says, “It’s a song for everybody.”
THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON IN YOUSRA’S CAREER
The Egyptian star’s most important advice for up-and-coming talent is a lesson that she acquired during her decades in the business:
“Don’t be arrogant, be yourself. Believe in what you do and love what you do - be patient. You have to understand, to learn. I think that’s how I made it.”