Sameh Alaa


A determined daughter takes matters into her own hands and breaks social norms as she drives her father’s motorcycle through the night facing dangerous social terrain in an attempt to raise money to save her ailing father’s life. 

1st feature

Studios S15 (Egypt)
Sameh Alaa


Fig Leaf Studios (Egypt)
Mark Lotfy

Director’s statement

Whale Belly is my first feature film. 17-year-old Rim lives with her father, her world does not extend much beyond the apartment door. Confined by social expectations, she faces a dilemma: should she wait for a miracle or go out and create one herself? I have always been interested in intergenerational conflict, tackling it more explicitly in this film. The younger generation is underrepresented in Egyptian film and primarily expected to consume low-quality comedies and romances. I want to break such stereotypes and take young people seriously. The film follows a rhythm of fear and hope. Emotions are built up slowly and intensified through a camera that rarely moves, remaining close to the characters and their internal struggles. I will cast non-professional actors and shoot at decaying, stagnant locations which reflect the world of the protagonist, who, in a single night, challenges social norms, patriarchy, prejudice, and harassment to save her father’s life.


Sameh Alaa
Sameh Alaa

Sameh Alaa is an Egyptian producer and director from Cairo. His first short film Fifteen premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 and won several awards in festivals around the world. His last short film I am afraid to forget your face became the first Egyptian film to be awarded Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2020. His film continues its festival run at San Sebastian Film Festival, Cairo International Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival and many others.

Mark Lotfy
Mark Lotfy

Mark Lotfy an Egyptian producer and director, established Fig Leaf Studios in 2005. He produced I am Afraid to Forget Your Face directed by Sameh Alaa; won the Palm d’Or Cannes 2020, produced films selected in prominent film festivals: Berlinale, Sundance, Karlovy Vary, San Sebastian, and BFI, including recent films like Souad by Ayten Amin (Cannes 2020, Berlinale & Tribeca 2021 ) and Captains of Zaatari by Ali Elaraby (Sundance 2021). In addition, Cinedelta an Independent Documentary Film School to create opportunities for young filmmakers.

Total budget

€600 000

Financing secured

€100 000

Shooting period and locations

November 2023

Expected delivery

March 2024

Looking for

Co-producers, sales agents, distributors

Other Projects in development