• Interviews

HFPA in Conversation: Hend Sabry Promotes Peace with her Work

Egyptian-Tunisian actress Hend Sabry says that acting was her destiny. She tells HFPA journalist Husam Asi that she never sought cinema but it found her. And she is glad about it. Sabry began her career at the age of 14 when she starred in 1994 hit The Silences of the Palace. In 2003 she moved to Egypt and became one of the most accomplished actresses in the Arab world. Now she is executive producer and star on the Netflix series Finding Ola. “Back in 2019, I was approached by Netflix International as the first Arab female star to star in a show for them, in a Netflix original production. A very good move for them because it’s a streamer that is known for its feminism, women and teenage characters, and female-driven original series.”

She describes it as a huge opportunity as an actress but also as an executive producer and showrunner. “My biggest prize on the show is that not only am I starring in it, but I’m also running it and I am the showrunner. I think that this is also a first for a female star in the region, in the Middle East, to be producing her own show for international streamers. This is my baby, I was there for the development, for the writing, for the production and now for the post-production and hopefully it will see the light by the end of 2021 or maybe the first part of 2022. It’s a huge adventure for me and it’s a huge challenge for me as a woman, as an actress, and as a first-time producer as well.”

She is producing it through her production company, Salam. The name has a powerful meaning. “I love this word because it means so much and it’s famous everywhere, even if you don’t have a notion of Arabic. When you hear Salam, you always think of peace upon you, and I think this is the real purpose of me being in this profession and this industry, is to promote peace. For me, it was a great name for my production company, and let’s hope it brings me luck.”

Listen to the podcast and hear what kind of upbringing Sabry had in Tunisia; whether it is common for an Arab actor to own a production company; how she got interested in producing content; how she reflects on her road to becoming a member of the jury in the Venice Film Festival; how she got a role in The Silences of the Palace as a teenager; what kind of relationship she had with a filmmaker like Moufida; why she moved to Egypt; how acting is different in Egypt than in Tunisia; how has the Tunisian film industry and its acting style changed over the decades; when she needed to rethink her boundaries; and how censorship affects her work.