Rap Culture & MMA Fights: The Making of ‘Five Rounds’
In conversation with the star-studded cast and director of ‘Five Rounds’, the film spotlighting the talents of Egyptian youth.
Blending the raw intensity of Mixed Martial Arts with the lyrical fire of rap battles, ‘Five Rounds’ is an Egyptian film about taking hits and throwing hands, whether on the canvas or on the streets. With a roster of young talents, including Adam El Sharkawy, Nour El Nabawy and Dalia Shawky, as well as up-and-coming director Mazen Ashraf, the film is an underdog story both on the screen and behind it.
Adam El Sharkawy stars as Fares, a young MMA fighter from rural Egypt who is thrown into the visceral reality of the sport. “To be able to be around real fighters, spar with them, and even take a punch from one, really helped me mentally understand what Fares might be thinking,” El Sharkawy tells CairoScene.
The actor had to undergo intense Mixed Martial Arts training for six months, physically and mentally experiencing the sport, its challenges and the lifestyle attached to it. However, the real challenge of the film goes beyond the obvious physical strain; it’s about authentically depicting communities usually unseen in cinema, whether it’s Egyptian MMA or the nation’s underground rap scene.
“To understand rap culture, we relied not only on our director Mazen Ashraf, who really understands the scene, but also Egyptian rapper Arsenik,” El Sharkawy shares. “With both of their visions, I really think the film will accurately represent what it’s like coming up as a rapper in Egypt.”
Egyptian rapper Arsenik and soulful singer Aida El Ayoubi will both make their acting debut in the film, while collaborating on one of the songs on the soundtrack. Trailblazers FLEX and Husayn of Maadi Town Mafia will also be making cameo appearances, while dropping an original track for the film.
Egyptian actress Dalia Shawky fell in love with her role as Shahd, who she describes as a ‘passionate yet rigid’ character with a troubled upbringing. “This film felt like a much-needed step for our generation and the industry at large,” Shawky tells CairoScene. “It is made by youth for youth.”
With his first feature, director Mazen Ashraf is adamant on representing his generation through stories that personally shaped him. “Being a director from this generation, I naturally find myself drawn to youth subcultures,” Ashraf tells CairoScene. “The initial idea came from catering to a new audience. We weren’t trying to create a traditional hero or fighter storyline.”
Having filmed in Alexandria and Budapest in Hungary, Ashraf believes that MMA and rap aren’t just contemporary trends in Egypt, but globally, with MMA representing dreams of becoming a champion, while rap empowers voices to make art that reflects their identity. Now, he’s bringing them both to the forefront, putting the perspective of the next generation on the big screen.
‘Five Rounds’ is set to hit theatres August 16th.
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