Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interview with Egyptian journalist Pakinam Amer

Intro/lead: It’s in storytelling, verbal and visual, that Pakinam has found what she calls “personal legend,” a phrase first coined by author Paulo Coelho and describes a person’s proper path in life. It’s a path that, she says, has opened her eyes to both beautiful and unpleasant realities that this region is enduring. Nevertheless, the changing tides in the Middle East and the shifting political and social landscape, and the discovery of “new” freedoms in Egypt have continued to fuel her passion albeit the presence of challenges and difficulties born with the social and political experiment that people in Egypt are now undertaking.

Q: Pakinam, what kept you moving forward? Why didn’t you give up?

Well, I could have been driven off my path. But I have been lucky enough through journalism, blogging, and photography, to come in contact with incidents that gave me courage. Also, the people that I’ve met have made a huge difference. They made me witness a sort of … a modern-day miracle, you know, how the will of a few people, a few visionaries –,you know, human beings like you and me with ideas- can change the world.

Q: You’ve recently embarked upon a journey to the United Kingdom where you lived there for more than a year to do your masters in Investigative Journalism. As I understand it, it was a UK-based course that focused on UK law and politics and was meant to help you work in England. Why did you decide to come back?

Because no matter how much I spend there, I know I’ll be more of an expert on my country than anywhere else. I speak the language, well, it’s my mother tongue and I’ve already worked here for more than three years. And Egypt is rich with stories. It’s rife with political, social and faith-related stories, so is our region, the Middle East. It’s a reporter’s heaven.

Q: You’ve been taking some interest in filmmaking recently, am I right?

Yes, that’s correct. Well, I have started scratching the surface of filmmaking and shooting for television first during my post-graduate studies in the American University in Cairo (AUC). However, in London, where I was based until a month ago, I delved a little deeper. The close encounter with the world of TV and film, you know, working behind the camera and video editing was enough to make me yearn for more. I really felt that I had tapped into this fresh talent inside of me. I felt it was always there but it was hidden.

Q: Do you plan to work on it?

I already started to – slowly but surely. When I was in London, I didn’t waste much time. I started buying movies like crazy. My wallet and bank account suffered a lot because of this. I started watching many of the classics and international movies from France, Germany … Sweden, Russia. It’s a whole new world really. I’ve also taken two intensive workshops in filmmaking and directing at the London Film School, in addition to taking part in script clubs and Q&A sessions where everything, you know, from production, editing to lighting and sound or what have you, was discussed.

Q: So are you gonna start making your own movies now?

Well, not right away. I have a rather primitive video camera. But I plan to experiment with that first. I’m hoping that taking loads of short courses and workshops will prepare me for a full-blown study of filmmaking; perhaps back in the UK or even the US. I don’t want this to be a hobby that I do on the side. I plan to turn it into a career … and I don’t care how much time this will take. I know that most people don’t like starting from scratch. But I think it would be an interesting challenge.

Q: So do we understand that one day you plan to leave the journalism world and plunge into that of cinema?

Well, I’ll never stop becoming a journalist. As a journalist, I have naturally always been a storyteller. So no, I don’t see it that way. Plunging into the world of filmmaking is not a change of careers; I simply see it as an extension of my work as a journalist, perhaps an evolution, you know, a natural evolution into … using the full extent of my senses and talents to communicate, you know, my ideas to the masses … and … to help the masses communicate, you know, their dreams and fears to the world.

Pakinam has been an inpsiration to family and friends.

Q: What do you think of Pakinam?

As a mother, i can't be more proud of my daughter. I respect people who follow their dreams with a passion and that's what she's doing.


Running time: 4 min. 50 sec.

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