by- Shahenda Abdelrahim
AlSisi believes in the role of youth worldwide
I met 29 heads of states
I dream of educating young African girls
I visited Egypt 3 times
When she appeared on the world youth stage as the first spokesman hosted by wyf ,I was taken by surprise to know her age as only 16..I thought that there might be a translation mistake..
Astonishing enough she is only 16 and spoke confidently stressing that she is such a girl who dreams and dreams come true..she also asserted that everyone in the hall could achieve his own dreams.
She asked the youth attending the event to sing after her”dream ..dram ..dream and don’t stop dreaming..Actually her words touched upon everyone’s to the extend that I looked for her after the event and interview ed her.
What are your origins..where do you live?
I am from Los Angeles California, born and raised. My dads family is from Nigeria, and my moms family is from Mauritius, near Madagascar, which is also in Africa. So as you can see, I am American, with strong African roots. That is a very special combination.
How did you start directing films and what was your first film?
My film making was by accident. I entered a competition when I was 9 years old back home in California, sponsored by the “History Channel”. The idea was to get young American kids to tell a historic story by acting it out on stage, or by film making. Well, first off, to enter the competition, you had to be between 11 years old and 15 years old, but even though I was just 9, I really wanted to enter, because I was already 2 years ahead in my school, so I was in a class of 11 year old. Anyways, most of the students in my class wanted to do things that happened on the US continent, or European continent, and no one wanted to tell a story that happened in Africa, like I wanted to. Being the youngest also, no one listened to my opinion.
So guess what, because it was just me who wanted to do something about Africa, I couldn’t act it without any help from others, as I needed people to join me. So, I had to choose film making. I had never made a film before in my life. I had only 4 months to learn everything, and I mean everything about film making – script, camera, software, editing, location, music scoring, and everything needed to make a film work, and I still had my school l work, and I still had my chores around the house. And I was just 9 years old, But I was determined to tell a positive story about Africa, because usually on the news, the global media always focused on the negative things, and I didn’t think that was nice or fair. So I went to Ghana to meet President Jerry Rawlings, to help in the film making by appearing in it, and he did. That was very cool of him. We are still friends till today, and I see hi whenever I visit Ghana, and he always makes time for me. The film was called “The Ghana Revolution”
who is the person who affected your life and who inspired you from the well known figures?
My parents, because they have sacrificed a lot for me. Mt dad stopped working, not because he wanted to, but because the only way they would allow me travel for my projects since I was young, was if one of my parents traveled with me. I have three younger siblings, so my mom stays at home with them, while my dad Travels with me. So, on the road for my projects, he is both my mom and my dad – praying for me, making sure I ear, getting my clothes ready for my events, helping me go over my speech to make sure it sounds okay, playing at times, and doing what he needs to do, instead of being at work. So my whole family manages to live on y mons income. Its hard, but we manage. Isn’t that cool. Isn’t that what family is for. So my parents inspire me a lot.
How did you succeed in interview 29 presidents of the states and who was the first one?
I just write to them and tell them what I am doing, who I am, and why I want to meet with them. And it takes some time for them to come back, but they do come back eventually. So now I have spoken with 29 leaders from the Americas, Europe, Africa . Some include the leaders of Kenya, Malta, Guyana, Ghana, Tanzania, Croatia, Nigeria, Jamaica, and of course, a few days ago – President Abdelfattah EL Sisi of Egypt. My first one was President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana.
Who was the leader whom you met and left great impression on you and what you learned from him?
Ah, that’s a tough question. They all had various messages that left me thinking, learning, and understanding even more, how hard leadership is.
How did you participate in world youth forum..what do you think about its idea and did it succeed from your point of view?
I was invited to speak, so that was a great honor. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for all the events, as I already had commitments to speak in a program in Paris – France, that also had the some European leader, such as those from Italy, France, Columbia and Germany. But I followed on social media, and it was incredible to see many youths …I mean just seeing that many young people – can you imagine that, leading and running things and managing the project, even if just for a few days. That was fantastic to see.
is it your first visit to Egypt and did u think to shoot a film on our country? It is my third visit to Egypt, but my first one in Sharm El Sheikh. I have produced some projects in Hollywood, and also directed projects for some major companies like Procter & Gamble, Hilton Hotel, and participated in others like INTEL and GAP. But Egypt has some rich and historic sites, and some very well known sites…so, yes…it would be great to shoot in Egypt instead of in studios with fake Egyptian Pyramids etc. Also,it would be great to invite and tell big producers about the opportunities to shoot in Egypt. That would be really nice,. Don’t you think !!!؟
could you tell us about your meeting with president Sisi?
So, it was a meeting between two people, who believe in their purpose, and who are committed to what the believe. He was very kind enough to make time to sit down and answer some of the issues I brought and shared with him. It was also an opportunity for him to tell the rest of the world, especially the worlds youths, his vision for youths and their place in developing the world. For me, it was an opportunity to show the rest of the Arab world me as an example, of what the youths and women in their societies can contribute, if they are given a platform to do it on. I was meeting my 29th word leader in President Abdelfatttah El-Sisi, and I am just 16. Imagine what young girls and young women can do for development in their countries.
How about your constant defense on the right of education to African girls ..did you make any initiatives in this field.
I do so at every opportunity I can, and every where I go. It is one f the things that drives me, really. I always think, how can I have all these opportunities as a girl, to go to school and change the word with my projects, while other girls don’t have the same opportunities. There is nothing nice or cool about that – Right.
what is the most beloved film and did it succeed in conveying it’s message..
I shot a film called “Follow The Ball for Education”, between 2014 and 2016. I started shooting in Brazil during the FIFA World Cup – that was a great time, and then I shot parts of it in Ethiopia, Mauritius, the US and Nigeria. It was the story of ONE girl [Me], taking TWO footballs, across THREE continents, through FIVE countries, to get people to sign the footballs for the support of Girls Education. So people like Pilots, governors, football players, football fans, Ambassadors, a Nobel Prize winner, business CEO’s and many others, signed the balls. The film has showed in the US, South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and places like that.
did your jeunesse cause any problems you ..in other words is it a double edge weapon?
I am still young, and sometimes people find it hard to take me serious, also because I am a girl. But when they see what I have done the last 5 years, its hard for them not to take me serious.
please send a message to your generation who failed to achieve their dreams?
Dreams Are Free, and they should continue dreaming. Education is a powerful weapon to help achieve dreams, but Education is not just you learn in school It could be from magazines you read in the library, documentaries you watch that teaches you, or skills you learn like film making.
what is your favorite world movie?
Crimson Tide, with Denzel Washington
what is your idea about Arab cinema and films?
I am still learning about it, and I watch them now on flights when I travel. So ask me again in 6 months time
what is your dreams and plan for future works?
To continue doing what I am doing, for Girls Education, making films that show the positive parts and things in Africa, and expanding my projects I the Arab world. Then, when I get older like 35, become the youngest President of the United States. Now, that is a dream worth working for, and working towards. I am very excited about that. I hope you are around to see that day.
Do you have a fixed idea about your man of dreams and what are his specifications?
I don’t think about things like that now. I am 16, and I have a purpose for my life now.