In August 1988, I went to Ein Shams with my camera to document the riots against the police. In a confrontation with a policeman, I was shot on my right arm. This incident became the first of a series of distressing and violent events I observed and captured as a war documentary maker. In the 18 years that followed, I filmed 12 wars in over 30 countries. I was shot again when in June 1993 in Bosnia, yet I continued my work believing that pictures portraying the horrors of wars would make a difference. In the beginning of 2004, after completing a documentary on mass graves in Iraq, I returned in Cairo feeling disenchanted by the world and my work. The world of fiction films reinstated my love for the camera and became a venue through which I could explore the realistic style and serious subject matter characteristic of documentary making with the magic and playfulness of fictional storytelling. In 2005 I completed my first featured film Ithaki. Shot digitally and with no budget, this film received a warm welcome by audiences and rendered palpable the burgeoning market for films that are independent, experimental and bold. With Ein Shams I hope to take my fiction work a step further by making it available to wider audiences in Egypt and abroad.
Ein Shams was inspired by an encounter in September 2005. At the time I had just finished my first fiction film Ithaki and was involved in a project teaching children living in Upper Egypt how to use the art of theatre and filmmaking. Mohammed Adel Fatah, a teacher and a director who was also participating in the project, put forward the idea of positioning my next film in his neighbourhood, Ein Shams. Mohammed also offered to assist me with access to people and locations. Being a place that has long haunted and fascinated me, I took up his evocation and I wrote a story that was appropriate for Ein Shams. In this film I use footage from my last visit in Iraq, thus bringing to full circle my documentary work that was marked by my first project in the Ein Shams neighbourhood almost 20 years ago.