On brotherly love, connecting communities and filmmaking: Moh and Mazen Mahfouz

by Ashlynn Chand

As I stare at the screen, I am greeted with two faces: both bright-eyed, dark-haired, wearing fashionable glasses. At first glance, they could easily be mistaken for twins, but on further interrogation, you can see slight differences in stature, height, and facial shapes. They’re brothers, of course, but unlike my sister and I – who are polar opposites – they’re perfect pieces of the same puzzle. Moh and Mazen Mahfouz are the masterminds behind BAD Films, aka Be A Dreamer Films. Raised in Edmonton, the Mahfouz brothers are emerging filmmakers, whose work has been shared globally in places such as the US, Iceland, Netherlands, Italy, Romania, Brazil and beyond. Their films have graced the screens of festivals in Edmonton, Vancouver, LA, Milan, Valencia and San Francisco.

As I continue to talk to the brothers, their energetic and creative spirits merge together wonderfully — finishing each other’s sentences, seamlessly flowing off each other’s ideas, and speaking of each other’s accomplishments with unflinching pride. Moh and Mazen know they’re the perfect pair.  

“We have always worked best when we have filmed [together] or my brother has filmed the content and then I edit the footage,” says Mazen. “Usually, because I know what he’s thinking when he’s trying to execute something, an idea, and I understand what he’s trying to do versus if you don’t have this connection then any other editor won’t get it.” 

“I like to think that if I am ever going to make a feature film, [Mazen’s] gotta be editing my film,” continues Moh.  

“Yeah, and I’ll charge him for it.” 

Mazen is an aspiring singer and a current student at Macewan University’s music program; when he wanted to create a music video, he sought help from his brother. Moh graduated in 2014 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Philosophy, but his love of filmmaking led him down a different path. 

“In a way, I feel like political science does have some sort of ability to channel writing and storytelling,” says Moh. “I’m channeling all my learnings into ways I can express myself as an individual, as an artist.” 

As they enthusiastically describe different types of cameras and express their love of behind the scenes reels of any film they watch, you can tell they take their craft seriously. Moh and Mazen tell me they’re grateful and feel blessed to be accepted into so many film festivals, but they know that they have to continue to work hard. 

“It’s not like once you get into those film festivals, that’s it you can relax, you made it,” says Mazen. 

Making any film requires time and money. Film festivals allow artists to make connections, gain recognition, and potentially obtain funding by networking.

“We make it, then we move on,” adds Moh. “In a way, I am being pushed to submit to those film festivals, because otherwise I wouldn’t sit down to do it.”

BAD Films have humble beginnings. For the Mahfouz brothers, they didn’t start filming using expensive cameras, instead their first camera was the one built right into their cellphones — the good old Nokia phones. Mazen started editing in his first year of junior high school in 2007. After buying DSLR cameras, they made their first music video in 2011. In 2014, they launched their first production company, which eventually evolved into BAD Films a few years later. 

“Be A Dreamer is […] a command, it’s a lifestyle if you wanna say,” explains Moh. “It represents the greatness of it or maybe even the failure of it.”  

“On top of filmmaking being international and global, I think it’s also very human, just like music is very human,” says Mazen. 

Their most recent film, Nike: The Goddess of Victory, was shown at the Edmonton International Film Festival 2020. The short film depicts PichiAvo, a duo of renowned Spanish artists, painting their mural of Nike with audio from an interview that Mahfouz brothers conducted with the artists.

“We are highlighting the graffiti world within Edmonton, and that’s its own community, and […] we are highlighting Edmonton in general,” Moh says. 

“Traditionally, graffiti can be looked down upon and we would rather celebrate the culture,” describes Mazen. 

From the picturesque shots of Edmonton in Donut Day to the grand and adventurous landscapes of Iceland in Startup City Project, celebrating unique communities are a major focus of their work. According to Moh and Mazen, filmmaking is a collaborative art form. As a result, they are “tapped into many communities.”

“It’s not a one man band, you need to work with people and everyone needs to be on the same page, working towards one goal,” says Moh. “There’s so many communities out there and I feel like Edmonton has lots of amazing support systems that you can literally call up somebody and it can lead you to someone else […] so I always see that positive gathering within Edmonton.” 

Although the future is uncertain and their goals aren’t cut in stone, Moh and Mazen hope to grow as artists and create longer films, like a feature film or a longform documentary. Even if it’s not their own films, they both would love to be in bigger productions in some way. 

“In terms of location, there is no location other than being on the internet,” says Mazen. 

“I know it’s an ambitious thing and there’s so many roadblocks, […] but when you have an idea you want to execute, you’d move mountains to make it happen,” says Moh.