The scriptwriter Wahid Hamid is known for pioneering social issues with a political dimension, which he embodied in cinematic works.
This was done across a range of his works, such as “Toyour elzalam” (Birds of darkness) and “Al-irhab wal kabab” (Terrorism and kebab), among others.
His talent and ability to decipher the street and how to present an attractive work message was clear in his works, including “The Yacoubian Building.” He always played the role of a naughty intellectual, and always with a conversational tone.
Recently, Hamid came out to surprise the community with a major attack on the Children’s Cancer Hospital Foundation 57357. He wrote a series of articles supported by what he said were documents gained in a manner similar to investigative journalism.
Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview Hamid about art, literature, culture, and politics, as well as his campaign against what he sees as corruption in general. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What do you think about decision to ban publication in case raised between you, 57357 Hospital?
The decision to ban publication is issued only by the prosecutor general, and this decision was issued to defend the hospital. The Supreme Council for Media Regulation is supposed to be a neutral party and leave it to the investigating authorities, if any, but there is no investigating body right now.
The Social Solidarity Ministry’s investigation is also “false” because of the simple fact that the Ministry of Solidarity is investigating itself, as the body responsible for the charity hospital, which cannot be done.
Many compared your series of articles to investigative journalism because they depend on numbers, documents; is this true?
No, I started to write what I know. But it seems I opened a deep well and many began to contact me and provide me with documents, papers, and information that lacked an outlet to be published.
There are rumours that you accuse foundation of cooperating with suspicious bodies; what is true?
The founders of the institution can cooperate with the devil to their advantage, and if the English occupied Egypt, they would cooperate with them. They only care for their own good.
We went to 57357 Hospital, confronted them with everything you mentioned, such as increasing size of ads, exploitation of children, they denied all those charges; what is your response?
I simply replied that I had proof of what I was saying. They can show their documents, and a neutral body can investigate both sides.
Do you see that state is fighting corruption, that regulatory bodies are achieving great success?
The state is already fighting corruption and there is a will, but I do not see successes like this. What is the value of arresting an official here and an official there? There are huge networks of corruption that must be dissolved.
Do you think that state is hostile to intellectuals, have you been harmed by your disclosure of information regarding 57357 Hospital?
The state does not put intellectuals in the enemy’s field, but there is no intimacy between the state and intellectuals, because the problem of intellectuals is that they search for disturbing things of any system of government, and they uphold justice and are permanent seekers of freedom and prosperity. This is an act that will disturb any regime. All over the world, there is no intimacy between intellectuals and the state.
Do you think this current regime does not pay attention to intellectuals?
I do not see this. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with intellectuals during his first term. This happened more than once and could happen again.
In general, I think that the presence of intellectuals, especially if they have a conscious vision and have great and serious ideas for the future, it is good and beneficial. A conscious intellectual can light up the road and set up prescriptions for mistakes, which is required and necessary in any society that wishes to advance and move forward.
Regarding corruption, do you think that nothing has changed?
No, what I mean is that corruption exists, and it activates and maintains its existence. You have to understand that corruption is now born and here. It is everywhere in the world to varying degrees in the sense that it may be severe in one society and weak in another. In our country, it is strongly present and cannot be treated overnight. Those accustomed to corruption will not leave it easily. It is a microbe that is hard to get rid of. Yet, I am always optimistic about the presence of honourable citizens loyal to this great nation.
How do you see current wave of high prices?
In the beginning, we must affirm that high prices are imposed on us. I cannot say foreign countries are doing that to us, but we neglected economic reforms for so long, due to the mistakes of previous rulers who ignored reform and wanted to please the Egyptian people.
I think Egyptians received the waves of price hikes sarcastically. Egyptians keep on smiling in dealing with painful things.
Do you think this is necessary for political reform?
The real economic reform should not be based on the collection of money from people. All the nations that have risen and made economic progress have depended on production. We must say very frankly that life is impossible without work. It is difficult for life to continue on alms, donations, and grants. Everyone knows very well that we are a people who do not work. All developing nations were based on work and production.
In Egypt, parasitic occupations emerged. They are professions that do not produce and do not contribute to the renaissance of society. Most people left an industry and went on to drive “tuk tuks” (three-wheeled vehicles) or go into brokering. How can this result in progress? It is the real economy that provides production. For example, we must plant and grow, and we must produce and export, but parasitic occupations will not contribute to the building of society or profit us.
As for the damage from what I write, it has happened a lot. I have had difficult battles, and my opponents have tried to prevent me from continuing. I am trying to detect the mistakes of those who manage, and my goal is to correct the mistakes and punish those involved. Many have contacted me to stop me from writing, while others are giving me threats. But I continue to be steadfast and will not back down, because I believe in my cause and I am also convinced that the writer is not defeated in any case they fight, as long as they have the voice of truth.
How do you see change happening now in artistic works, with artists?
I worked and lived with a generation of greats, such as Salah Mansour, Mahmoud Morsi, Samiha Ayoub, Mohsena Tawfik, Mohamed El Dafrawy, middle-generation Elham Shahin, Laila Elwi, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Adel Imam, Ahmed Zaki, and Nour El Sherif.
I see that the only difference between the old and new generations is that the stars of the past were sincerer than the current generation. The majority of the current generation are making a living from acting. Hence, the low quality of works, which seem commercial rather than artistic.
I still believe that the cinema has become an investment instrument used for benefit, so producers do not consider the value of the artwork, but rather focus on profit.
It is rumoured that you rejected presidency of drama committee, but you denied rumour. How do you evaluate its role?
I personally recognise only the General Directorate for the Censorship of Artistic Works. I see that the entity needs to develop and change by pumping new blood and drafting fair laws. At the same time, I see that the drama committee and the monitoring committee are just random entities, and I refuse to recognise them.
Have you had many confrontations with them?
I clashed with the General Directorate for the Censorship of Artistic Works many times. Yet, I was reassured, because it is managed by the law and not an individual. The laws are imposed on both the supervisors and the artists. Hence, I felt secure, because the rule will depend on the laws.
I am, however, against the random entities that try to impose restrictions on creativity and suppress freedoms, on claims of protecting public morals. I am also convinced that the conscience of the creator is the first sergeant, so the real creator tries to provide the useful thing for the society.
What are your new projects?
There are ideas and projects already, but I will not be able to reveal details about them, and I will announce them after my return from a treatment trip this month for heart surgery.
How did you deal with Marwan Hamid’s experience, how did you raise him?
As I have always done—I treated him with the logic of birds. I did my best to raise him, and he flew when he grew wings. His parents do not let him stay home. Marwan was successful in this after being granted the will to draw his own future.
I do not exaggerate if I say that I know his news from newspapers and friends. I am happy with the success of Marwan Hamid in his field. I am very pleased when people praise him.