Alaa Khaled
Photography: Amr El-Gohary Styling By: Aliaa Ahmed

It is sad to say that film festivals are now overlooked, and people only talk about who wore what. With Cairo Film Festival coming to an end, we wanted to shed light on one particular movie that truly grabbed our attention. The movie is called ‘Experiment: Sorry’; it is 10 minutes long, with very few spoken words. Directed, written and produced by upcoming filmmaker Alaa Khaled, the movie is a mix of sci-fi, romance and drama, all wrapped into a short movie.

As a person who is told “you are emotionless” very often, I was surprised that a 10-minute movie did, in fact, manage to make me feel things. Maybe because I am a person who is not used to having emotions after watching a movie, I could not pinpoint what I felt, or why. The experience of watching ‘Experiment: Sorry’ was strange, to say the least.

About ‘Experiment: Sorry’

The movie starts with an old teacher working on a piano with wires and light bulbs on it, and a watch. The man then takes the piano to the school where he teaches and plays a goose bump generating music piece that travels him through time. We don’t want to say too much about the movie since we don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s interesting and confusing in the best possible way.

To make peace with the confusion I have felt, I decided to reach out to Alaa Khaled and learn more about ‘Experiment: Sorry’. He gladly accepted and invited us to his production house – The Projector – and we got to watch the film again and talk more about it with him.

Now if you have met anyone from the film industry, especially young upcoming filmmakers, you will most likely meet with a pretentious person who does not even make any sense when they speak. Surprisingly, Alaa was a very cheerful and friendly guy with optimism and so much creativity that makes you eager to know more about him and his work.

We started with getting to know more about Alaa; his beginnings and how he got into filmmaking.

“I graduated in 2006 from Nantes University, France with a degree in Information Systems Studies. I started working as a freelance graphic designer, where I worked with several magazines, including Identity Magazine, before becoming Art Director for G-mag and Campus magazines.

I then expanded to photography, and that led me to videography. I freelanced here and there – from behind the scenes of films and music videos. This got me familiar with sets, and I fell in love with it.

I started making short videos and music videos as well. Then I opened The Projector, where I started doing wedding videos. This step was a huge success for me, and I became very well known in this field.

Two years later I started working as a DOP, but I wasn’t happy with shooting the films myself; I wanted more. I loved shooting, but I leaned more towards directing. Based on my experiences, I started directing. I did not study directing – it was all on-set experience, self-studying and workshops.”

Photography: Amr El-Gohary Styling By: Aliaa Ahmed

So how did producing your own short film come around?

“I always had ideas for feature films and short movies, but it’s always hard to find someone who is willing to invest in a movie by a new filmmaker with an outside the box idea. So I decided to take the risk myself and produce my own movie.”

But the idea of the movie itself, how did you come up with it?

I love sci-fi, and I believe that somewhere somehow someone invented the time machine. I also love music, so I combined two things I’m very passionate about and came up with this story. I did not want to leave this idea like the other ideas that I had. This story, in particular, I was very passionate about and I had to go with turning it into a reality.

Tell us more about the movie-making process. How did you pick the cast? And how did you convince them with such an abstract idea?

The first thing I wanted in the casting is an actor who is also a musician because I wanted it to be believable and accurate. It was hard to find someone at this age who can act and play music as well. Keep in mind, the main character is shown in his older and younger years.

My first choice was Jazz musician Ihab Shawi. He is a great musician and he was very excited about the role. But when it came to the old-age makeup it wasn’t convincing enough.

I then thought of my good friend Adham Zidan, who is an actor and his father is Nabil Ali Maher – a well-known music composer who worked on films like Ahmed Zaki’s “Edhak El Sora Tetlaa Helwa” and Adel Imam’s “Morgan Ahmed Morgan.”

I thought why not have them both play the young and old character? I asked Adham to see with Mr. Nabil if he would be up for it, and he did not hesitate. He loved the script and he was excited to work with his son and they were both up for it!

Let’s talk about the movie itself. How was the reception?

It was better than I ever expected. I applied with the movie to several festivals, and I was met with great responses. The movie premiered in Ravenna Film Festival in Italy. I also managed to participate in this year’s Cairo Film Festival and will be participating in another international film festival soon.

What’s next for Alaa Khaled?

I want to expand in the filmmaking industry. I’m hoping to work on a feature film, where I can introduce the sci-fi genre to the Egyptian cinemas. We have great potential in Egypt, and I want to change the perception of the sci-fi genre in the region.

There was so much more to talk about with Alaa that we could not just fit it all into a single interview. We took you through a sneak peek of the movie and a brief about Alaa, and what we’ll see next from him.
It’s worth noting that the piano you see in the trailer is actually Alaa’s grandmother’s piano which Alaa actually learned to play music on. Since the story of the piano and its history is very interesting, we decided to keep it for another article, which we will be following up on later.