Neveen, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to cinema.
I was born in 1979 in Cairo, and I'm so proud to be Egyptian! I graduated from the Faculty of Arts and then studied cinema at the Film Academy of Egypt specialising in directing and finishing in 2007. I was selected for the Berlin Talent Campus in 2008, then I worked with the Dutch television as a correspondent from Cairo and was nominated to work with Amnesty International in The Netherlands. I have participated at many festivals with my films as well as a special guest. Now I'm also working as a freelance filmmaker in Egypt with the UN Women as well as Amnesty International and Al Jazeera.
The title of your film The Agenda and I (also known as The Agenda and Me) indicates that you too were personally part of the revolution.
Before The Agenda and Me, I made the film The Street Belongs to Us, and I wish that you could watch it before we talk about the present one. I filmed it during the two years before the revolution and I finished shooting it the first day of the revolution.
The Street Belongs to Us by Neveen Shalaby
What is the 'agenda" that this film invokes and your process as participant and filmmaker?
Well, the story behind the name is that I met an undercover policeman on the night of 25 January 2011, when police forces stormed Tahrir Square. The policeman helped me get out and told me that I should not return because the protestors were actually supporting foreign agendas to bring down the regime. This became the starting point for me to find out the real agenda, and thus the title The Agenda and I shows that I was not only the director of the film, but I was one of the characters in the film.
The Agenda and Me by Neveen Shalaby
As a filmmaker, participant, witness, what were your experiences? Were there difficult moments for you?
Yes I was all of these. The difficult moments were seeing all the martyrs, but I was not afraid, as I faced death many times when I was filming. Because I believe in God very much and I felt that God would protect me.
During the film screening at the Luxor African Film Festival in 2012 the person next to me was crying by the end of the film, myself moved by the emotions that the film invoked in him, I reached and held his hand. Afterwards, he thanked me for my gesture and we hugged. He told me that he had been waiting for this moment for a long, long time. For all of us non-Egyptians in attendance we were very touched by the reactions of the Egyptian audience. Some reflections on audience responses in Egypt and elsewhere?
Yes there were great reactions which I didn't expect, for instance at the world premier at the Oslo Film Festival in 2011.
Having participated in the Egyptian revolution from the beginning, what are your feelings about the current elections?
One word "disappointed". Due to ignorance, poverty and lack of awareness the radical Islamic parties won all our elections and there is still a long way ahead to succeed in this revolution!
I have just finished part two of my film the Agenda and I, which I filmed in Tunisia. It is called, The Agenda and I ....Tunisia Part Two. I am also working on a series of films about sexual harassment and about women in nontraditional jobs in Egypt.
Interview with Neveen Shalaby by Beti Ellerson, January 2013.