The desire to make fiction films has always existed within me. In February 2004, upon my return to Egypt after covering the war in Iraq, my dream of creating a film with its own reality grew stronger. Immediately after I had arranged the first day of shooting, I was asked to go back to Iraq and make another documentary. I chose to follow my dream and work with no income on my film. The second day of shooting was eleven years after I was injured in Bosnia. A couple of weeks later I found out that one of my colleagues in Iraq died after being shot in Faluja. This incident made me more determined to overcome the numerous difficulties of making a no budget film.
The story: The poem “Ithaki” was first given to me by a friend in Cyprus in 1992, right before I went to cover the war in Bosnia. I decided to name my movie after this poem because its interpretation of life resonated with me and the characters whose stories I wanted to tell. My “Ithaki” glances at fifteen lives each trying to overcome their loss and trauma and continue on with their journey. Some characters’ are more fully developed, while others remain a mystery even after the film ends. We see a war cameraman that has seen too much human suffering, a recovering alcoholic, a singer from Algeria who has lost many beloved ones…
The Characters/Actors: Only three of the characters are professional actors whose work I really admired. The rest of the cast is an assembly of friends whose personal life-stories had touched me or people whose appearance corresponded to the scenes I wanted to capture. For example, Essam, the character in love with classical music, I met in a shop the year prior to making Ithaki. His story touched me and I included it in my film. When I needed an old man for a scene, I asked my father to do it.
Making “Ithaki”: Since I didn’t have the technical and financial abilities that are today necessary in making a film, I tried to explore an alternative language to tell my story. I worked with whatever was available – people that were willing to work for free, locations I could shoot for free. I matched my imagination to my abilities, thus I oftentimes had to alter and simplify my scenes. I used many documentary making techniques, blurred these with others to capture the magic that exists in our realites.