Published 01/02/2019

Lepra were recently invited to the UK premiere of, A. B. Shawky's debut film, Yomeddine at the BFI London Film festival.

This gentle film follows the story of Beshay, who has been cured of leprosy but still has the scars of this devastating disease. He decides to leave the secluded leprosy community where he was abandoned as a child and goes on a journey across Egypt to find out why no one returned to get him.

This is a heartwarming story of friendship and determination, truly showing the person behind the disease as well as confronting the discrimination and devastation that many people affected by leprosy face.

The film was entered by Egypt into the long-list for Best Foreign Picture at The Academy Awards and has gained both popular and critical acclaim, currently holding a rare 100% Audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The London premiere included an informative Q&A session, offering insight into the filming of Yomeddine from the Director A.B Shawky and producer Dina Emam, who have graciously allowed us to publish some of the exceprts here.

Unless specifically identified, views and opinions contained in the Q&A are not representative of Lepra, it's staff or trustees. Photos are copyright of Desert Highway Pictures and used with permission.


Q: I work with Lepra which is a charity that works for people with Leprosy so I’m thrilled to see this movie, it’s very uplifting which is a great change and it’s great that this is a way of spreading awareness of leprosy. Are you planning to show the film in any other countries?

A:"We tried to do as much as we can. We’re in our fourth week of our theatrical run in Egypt now, we had a theatrical run in the Emirates, France is November 21st and then the United States next year. We hope a lot of people will see it. We also hope that it raises awareness about leprosy and about the leprosy colonies as most people don’t know what it is or that we even still have colonies."

Q: The title ‘Yomeddine’, I would love to know what that means. Secondly, it would be interesting to know how long it took you to film it.

A:" ‘Yomeddine’ refers to the scene under the bridge with the man suffering from dwarfism where he talks to Beshay about how, on the day of judgement, we will all be the same. ‘Yomeddine’ in Arabic is ‘the day of judgement’. When I shot the film somebody said that same line to me. I noticed that a lot of people there are very religious and I thought it was interesting that none of them were wallowing in self-pity and questioning God’s choices or decisions and somebody said “you know, well what’s the difference on judgement day we’ll all be equal anyways” and I thought that was an interesting thing and it became the title of the film.

It took us about 7 weeks to prep and 32 days over the course of 4 months to shoot it and we had to stop a lot due to logistical issues and independent film issues."

Q: Where did you find the kid [Ahmed Abdelhafiz] and how did you choose the name Obama?

A: "I spent months looking for a kid that is from the south of Egypt and I couldn’t find anyone, I did a lot of casting sessions, then I travelled down to the south and I couldn’t find anyone and then just by coincidence I heard from someone that there was someone in downtown Cairo shooting a movie and there was just this kid that was always hanging out and just asking questions and nobody really knew who he was or what he wanted. So we went and talked to him and again I just immediately knew that that kid was great. He had never stood in front of a camera, him and the main actor, it took us a while to get them to be ready to stand in front of a camera but it was completely worth it for us."

I was in Nubia casting, looking for a kid and one of the children that I came across’ name was Obama and I just asked the parents “why is he called Obama?” and he said “I don’t know he just seems like an Obama” he didn’t even look like him it just was a name and it stuck with me - I thought it would be an interesting name to give him.

Q: Did you have any issues or problems while you were filming - I wasn’t even aware that there were still colonies for... (people affected by leprosy) Did you have any issues with the outside world with normal people or with the crew because you were dealing with someone who had suffered from leprosy?

A: "In the beginning, the crew was a little worried but I think because they saw that we had spent 4 months with them beforehand and we weren’t afraid, they weren’t afraid too. The crew, by the end, were really sad that it was ending because they really fell in love with him (Rady Gamal), he’s a very charismatic, friendly, funny man and that also translates across the audiences in Egypt as well – people stop him in the street to hug him and to shake his hand, take photos with him.

He’s an iconic face in Egypt now - everyone stops and takes pictures with him and stuff. But going back to the crew, we made sure in the hiring process that we told people, “Listen, this is what this is, if you have an issue with this, this is probably not going to work”. So people knew going in and they also knew that they shouldn’t stare at him because he has a lot of pride as a person, he doesn’t like people staring at him, it’s okay if they stare at him as a star now, but staring at him because of his condition – he doesn’t like that... He’ll definitely call you out if you stare at him."

You can find out more about Yomeddine and watch a teaser of the film by visiting:

Or find out more about leprosy and how you could help people affected. 

Learn more