Zaki, Muna (1976–)
Muna (also Mona) Muhammad Zaki is one of the top young Egyptian film actresses working in the early twenty-first century.
Zaki was born to a Muslim family on 17 November 1976 in Cairo, Egypt. Her father, Muhammad Ali Zaki, was a college professor, and she grew up in Britain, Kuwait, and the United States. In Egypt, she was recruited somewhat unwittingly into the acting profession when, at age sixteen, she responded to an advertisement in the paper for new actors placed by the famous director Muhammad Subhi. Zaki entered the competition just to meet the famous director, and even though she had not prepared for the audition and did not take it seriously, Subhi liked her and later trained her for eight months in the Studio 2000 program. She eventually performed in a play of his, Bi'l-Arabi al-Fasih (In plain Arabic). Thereafter she returned to the United States, studying at Heritage Academy in Louisiana. Back in Egypt for college, Zaki studied mass communications at Cairo University. While also studying at the Institute for Theatrical Studies she was introduced to director Isma'il Abd al-Hafiz, who had her perform in his television series al-A'ila (The family). She went on to star in a number of popular television shows in Egypt.
INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
In 1997 Zaki performed in her first film, al-Qatl al-Ladhidh (The delicious killing), with actress Mervat Amin. Zaki went on to perform in over eighteen films. Some of her box-office hits include Sa'idi fi'l-Jami'a al-Amrikiyya (A Sa'idi in the American University), Umar 2000, al-Hubb al-Awwal (First love), and Leh Khallitni Ahibbak? (Why did you make me love you?). Perhaps her most famous role was that of Jehan al-Sadat, wife of assassinated Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, in the 2001 film Ayyam al-Sadat (The days of Sadat). The part of Sadat was played by legendary Egyptian actor Ahmad Zaki (no relation), who gave one of the greatest performances of his career. The film was one of the top-grossing films in Egyptian history. Muna Zaki and the cast were honored by current Egyptian president husni mubarak for their performance, and she became the youngest actress ever to win such an award from the government.
More recently, Zaki has starred with leading Egyptian star Ahmed El Sakka in the films An al-Ishq wa'l-Hawa (On love and the wind) and Taymur wa Shaqiquhu (Taymur and his brother). She has gone on record criticizing the Egyptian film industry for having women play lead roles whose primary job is to add luster to the male star's role. She has even complained about it to scriptwriters. "I've brought up the subject at every seminar I've ever attended, but to no avail," she noted in 2001. "Perhaps writers don't think we are talented enough. I guess it is also the result of patriarchy. One writer once told me 'what problem do women have that cinema can tackle?' I was too shocked to answer and haven't spoken out since" (http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/562/profile.htm).
THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE
Zaki is one of the most sought-after actresses in the Egyptian film industry today. She is popular in her native Egypt. The press even dubbed her Cinderella, a nickname once given to Egyptian actress Su'ad Husni, one of the most popular Egyptian actresses of all time. In 2003 she was one of the Best Actress honorees at the Damascus Film Festival, as well as at the 2004 Paris Biennale of Arab Cinema, both times for her performance in the film Sahar al-Lalali (Sleepless nights).
Muna Zaki has just begun her career, but is sure to leave a mark as a talented actress in a country known for the strength of its acting heritage.
Mona Zaki's official Web site. Available from http://www.mona-zaki.com.
Shahine, Gihan. "Mona Zaki: Expressions of Sympathy." Al-Ahram Weekly On-Line. 29 November-5 December 2001. Available from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/562/profile.htm.
Michael R. Fischbach
Name: Muna (also Mona) Zaki
Birth: 1976, Cairo, Egypt
Family: Husband, Ahmed Helmi (married 2002); daughter, Lily (b. 2003)
Education: Studying mass communications at Cairo University. Briefly studied at the Institute for Theatrical Studies
- 1997: Appears in first film, al-Qatl al-Ladhidh (The delicious killing)
- 2000: Wins award for the film Umar 2000; wins award for the film Ayyam al-Sadat from Egyptian president Husni Mubarak
- 2003: Receives Best Actress award (along with others) at the Damascus Film Festival; receives Best Actress award (along with others) at the Paris Biennale of Arab Cinema