Sari El Naggar
Sari el Naggar received his education at a number of institutions, beginning with the English Girls’ College (EGC) in Alexandria before going to boarding school in England, a year in Alexandria again to attend the American School in Schutz, a High School Diploma in Cyprus, and finally the American University in Cairo.
The cosmopolitan education he received echoed his own typically Alexandrian background, which was formed of a mix of Egyptian and European blood and a tradition of play readings and rehearsals held in his parents’ living room. His early exposure to the theatre led him to major in theatre and join an amateur theatre troupe at the AUC before landing a part in filmmaker Osama Fawzi’s Paradise of the Demons (Gannet el Shayateen). Since then he has played parts in The City (El Madina), Fish Tail (Deil el Samaka), The Magician (El Saher) and Adam’s Autumn (Kharif Adam). Apart from his very first shorter feature film directed by Sherif el Adma entitled I Don’t Want Anything (Mish Ayez Haga), his films were all landmark movies by respected directing artists such as Yousri Nasrallah and Mohamed el Qalyoubi. Most of those were award winning films in Egypt and abroad, also earning Sari both public and critics’ recognition and a Best Actor Award at the 19th Alexandria Film Festival.
Casting actors for his Paradise of Demons, Osama Fawzi explains in Al Ahram Weekly, “We look for particular features in the cast which I did not see in mainstream actors who have a seeming addiction to turning in typical television performances. Out of 37 candidates who auditioned for Hami Khalifa’s casting he selected only 3, one of whom was Sari [because they] had a similar atypical style.” They were not portraying villains as such, however, but tramps who for the requirements of the production were trained to act in a very deliberate yet controlled level of exaggeration.
Sari el Naggar’s roles are original and his performance is inspired, breaking the mould of stereotypes and cliché long associated with the villain as either totally hideous or naively funny. He prefers to reject as many lesser quality offers as he can afford to. “There are so many meaningless films being made,” he says, “that if we accept them solely for the money factor, weighing money against art, then I’m afraid we’ll have to find a new name for the latter; and it’s pathetic that people are getting funding for this kind of film in the name of art.”
2004 Jour of Dignity (Youm el Karâmah)