Daniel Ziskind, representative of Egyptian production company ZAD in Europe

"I’m convinced that great directors from this region of the world will emerge, and that Arab cinema will be increasingly exported"

Industry, Egypt

Daniel Ziskind, representative of Egyptian production company ZAD in Europe

Euromed Audiovisual met with Daniel Ziskind, representative of Egyptian production company ZAD in Europe. The company has just released the film El Ott by Ibrahim El Batout with Amr Waked, an Egyptian star known for his role as the French police officer in Luc Besson's Lucy. El Ott made its premiere at the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival. A great connoisseur of Arab cinema, Ziskind talks to us about these emerging markets. 


You recently attended the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival. How, in your opinion, has Arab cinema evolved over the last three years?

Over the last three years, I’ve noticed better organisation on the part of directors and some independent producers, who aren’t holding back in making films whose subjects break taboos. I think the revolutions in some of these countries have encouraged producers and directors to tackle more important topics, and new talent is emerging as a result.

This year in Abu Dhabi, the programme really was worthy of a category A festival. It was rich and varied and representative of a real Arab society in flux. European distributors need to come and attend these festivals. A real market modeled on those of the Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festivals exists in parallel with these festivals and provides the opportunity to see films from all over the region.

I’m convinced that great directors from this region of the world will emerge over the next five years, and that Arab cinema will be increasingly exported, mainly to Europe.

You represent ZAD communications in Europe. What are the challenges to distributing an Egyptian film in Europe?

The two most recent Egyptian films to have been shown in European theatres over the last two years are 678 directed by Mohamed Diab and an excellent documentary, The Virgin, the Copts and Me directed by Namir Abdel Messeeh. These two films did well in theatres, and are points of reference for me, just like the first Egyptian film I worked on, The Yacoubian Building, in 2006.

France remains by far the European country with the largest array of films from different countries on offer every week, as it is one of the only countries that releases between 12 and 15 films each Wednesday and has a very diversified public. But we should not overlook Germany, the Benelux countries, Spain and Italy, as well as the Scandinavian countries, as markets for Egyptian films and films from the region.

The real challenge today in such a saturated market is convincing European distributors and sellers to come into a theatre to see an Egyptian film and buy it, rather than simply sending them a DVD or a link. At the end of the screenings that I organise for distributors and sellers, I know straight away if the film has a chance or not of being bought.

At ZAD, our first production of Winter of Discontent in the Orizzonti section of the 2012 Venice International Film Festival helped us to find a seller for certain countries in Europe and influenced sales. The film was chosen by Egypt for the Oscars, which helped draw sellers in to see it, and was also uploaded to the Univers-Ciné platform, although we were disappointed with the results. VOD is not yet a very useful [distribution] platform for a film from this region, and screening such films in theatres is still the best way of getting them seen.

You are currently working on marketing and distribution for Ibrahim el Batout's latest film, El Ott, with Amr Waked. Can you tell us more about the film and the strategy for promotion and distribution?

El Ott is a film about spirituality, a true action film set against the backdrop of child organ trafficking in Egypt. It’s also a story about gangsters in Egypt today. I’m going to show the film to distributors and sellers in theatres before the end of the year, and then at the very beginning of January at Unifrance’s Rendez-vous with French Cinema, also taking into account events that will be held at the end of this year such as the American Film Market. I’ve sent the film to the Berlin International Film Festival and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they will consider it, as it’s exactly what I’m aiming for in Europe.

We started creating a bit of buzz around the film with articles in Screen and Variety after it was screened in Abu Dhabi, and have created a website and Facebook page for the film: www.elottfilm.com and www.facebook./elottfilm. Given the popularity of Amr Waked as an actor, we received 3,000 visitors in the first 48 hours.

Ibrahim el Batout is, in my opinion, with this fifth film [El Ott], the father of independent cinema in Egypt today. El Ott is by far his most successful and commercial film, and is above all a truly cinematic film, which makes it easy to export.


Translation: Phoebe Murray

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