Ismailia Film Festival kicks off with small protest

Film screenings start after anti-Muslim Brotherhood protest on opening night

Events and Festivals, Egypt

Ismailia Film Festival kicks off with small protest

Five days of short and documentary film screenings have kicked off in the Northern Egyptian town of Ismailia, after a protest on its opening night calling for the resignation of Egypt's new culture minister.

"No to the Brotherhoodisation of ideas," read the back of one festival poster, held up high by one of dozens of demonstrators outside Ismailia's culture centre on Tuesday evening. "No to the Brotherhoodisation of creativity," called another.

A week after the new Muslim Brotherhood-associated culture minister fired the head of the Cairo Opera House and a Salafi member of Egypt's upper house of parliament called for a ban on ballet, Egyptian film critics and reporters covering the festival joined in the chants calling for the resignation of the minister, before partaking in an opening ceremony that he did not attend.

Cinema and culture have a great role to play in Egypt's future, the festival's director Mohamed Hefzy, head of Egyptian production house Film Clinic (Asmaa, Microphone, Ray7een 3ala fayn?), told the audience at the ceremony.

For five days, the local Renaissance cinema is thus swapping its usual Egyptian commercial fare for independent fiction, documentary and animation from the Arab world and beyond.

Two films by Egyptian directors are competing in the feature-length documentary competition this year: Hind Meddeb's French-Egyptian co-production Electro Chaabi will be making its world premiere, while Wael Omar and Philippe L. Dib's In Search of Oil and Sand is to screen at its first Egyptian festival since it was removed in protest from the Cairo International Film Festival last December. Syria will be represented by Nidal Hassan's True Stories About Love, Life, Death and Sometimes Revolution, while Mehdi Fleifel's A World Not Ours and Eliane Rehab's Sleepless Nights will focus on the Palestinian refugee community and the civil war in Lebanon.

Tunisian filmmaker Walid Tayaa's Diary of an Ordinary Citizen is to make its world premiere in the short documentary competition. It will run against Palestinian filmmaker Khalil M. Elmuzayen's DOCmed-supported Gaza 36mm, Franco-Egyptian filmmaker Karim Goury's The Man Inside, and Lebanese filmmaker Nicholas Khoury's Al Hara, as well as Alia Ayman's Catharsis: A Self-portrait, Youssef Al Emam's Libido, and Ahmed Medhat's 5225 from Egypt.

In the short fiction competition, an Algerian-Swiss co-production -- Tahar Houchi's Yidir -- and three Egyptian films -- Adham Al Sherif's Behind the Door, Emad Maher's Zakariya, and Kerim El Shenawy's Odd -- will compete against shorts by three women from the rest of the region:Larissa Sanssour's Palestinian-Danish co-production Nation Estate, Lebanese filmmaker Odette Makhlouf's The Wall, and Saudi director Ahd's Sanctity.

In the short animation competition, Syrian filmmaker Dani Abo Louh's Randa is vying against three films from Egypt: Adel Elbadrawy's The Forest, Nour Abyad's Sketchaty Btakolny, and Mokhtar Talaat's Two.


Alice Hackman

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