Egyptian director Omar El Zohairy, whose absurdist social satire “Feathers” won the Cannes Critics’ Week prize in 2021 and went on to make a major splash, is set to helm “Mammals,” an English-language drama that will be a reflection on Western capitalism and family ties.
El Zohairy’s sophomore film, which will feature still unspecified actors from different countries, is being co-written by the buzzed-about auteur with British Egyptian writer-director Mohamed Adeeb, who wrote the hit Egyptian TV series “Bimbo,” directed by Amr Salama.
“Mammals” takes its cue from events in Adeeb’s life which in turn inspired El Zohairy to draw inspiration from the life of his father, who died in 2016 in the United States, where he was an immigrant living under difficult conditions, he said. In the film, a young man visits his distant father in one of the world’s most lavish resorts. When he arrives there he discovers that, unbeknownst to him, his father has locked him into a business deal that he cannot reject. The young man rebels, but also starts to like his new life and eventually loses his sanity.
El Zohairy said that at a micro level, the heart and spine of the “Mammals” story is the father and son dynamic. But it’s also about his rapport with capitalism.
“I always feel guilty about having money or making money. I hate poverty and I hate being wealthy too,” El Zohairy told Variety. “I suffer from capitalism but I can not resist it. I can not resist the idea of owning a nice spacious home or nice chalet by the seaside.”
“In this film I am trying to confront my fears in a hilarious, cinematic, poetic journey,” he noted.
“Mammals,” which begins in a Japanese fishing village where dolphins are mysteriously dying (see the above mood art), is being lead-produced by France’s Juliette Lepoutre via her Still Moving shingle, which also produced “Feathers.”
In 2021, El Zohairy became the first Egyptian director to win Cannes Critics’ Week top prize with “Feathers,” which went on to score a slew of other awards and ruffled feathers in Egypt, where it was banned from playing in movie theaters. He has worked as an assistant director alongside some of Egypt’s most celebrated filmmakers, among them Youssef Chahine and Yousry Nasrallah. His short film “Breathe Out” (2011) had its premiere at the Dubai Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize. His second short, “The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375” (2014), was the first Egyptian film selected for the Cannes’ Cinéfondation.