Born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, Zena AbdelBaky found her love for film firstly through her movie-loving family. She recollects times where her mother would excuse her from school to go to the movies and do what they called a “double-movie” and sometimes “triple-movie”. Not fitting in, and being bullied constantly in school, forced her to move schools five times, without leaving Cairo. The only thing that stayed constant in her life was her family and the escape that she finds in motion pictures.
The 2012 revolution gave her whole generation new definitions of life, you could still do what you’d been doing before 2012, but everything tastes different after. Like all the young people at the time, Zena remembers staying at home for weeks since all schools were shut down. The internet was shut down in the whole country, and there were curfews set for everyone that started early in the evening. She remembers her father along with all the other neighbor’s fathers setting up checkpoints on both ends of their street, searching every car that goes in and out, afraid that some might be rebels. They had weapons in their cars and homes, even taught their wives and daughters how to defend themselves with it.
Zena would sit with her sisters during those times, and watch movies back to back, trying to guess if the sound they just heard was that of shootings or fireworks; they always decided they were fireworks. This isn’t special to Zena in any way, every person living in Egypt at that time went through that, sometimes a lot worse. This only grounded her in her position, made her thankful to be here, and made her harder to startle. Despite all that’s happened, she never found a place warmer or safer than her home country. Zena’s dream is to make movies in Egypt, show the diversity of her culture, and beauty of her country and people. Zena’s currently based in New York.