Film & TV

The 7th Art: Why Improving the Cairo International Film Festival Should Be a 2017 Goal

Written by Farida Gamal

It’s regrettably evident that the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), is less ‘international’ than it should be, it’s also regrettably evident that we got used to it being this way since, what seems like, forever. Film festivals in other parts of the world are considered an essential factor for economic stability; they’re executed for financial profit, as much as educational enhancement through witnessing forms of cultural bloom. However, the CIFF disregards the cultural benefit of any successful film festival. It’s a disappointment to any international movie exhibition which is primarily initiated for the sake of cultural exchange, where the percentage of diverse cultural exchange is zero for Cairo’s inhabitants. The CIFF lacks so many aspects, actual importance, and even public motivation, that some people didn’t even know the festival was launching at that time; thus, the importance of such an event must be highlighted not only by its expected earnings, but also by acknowledging its problems so they would be hopefully solved by 2017 – because, honestly, we don’t wish to see the mistakes made in this event replicated in the upcoming year.

Egypt’s got 99 problems and the CIFF is one of them.

First, the festival’s slogan is, “cinema for the masses”. However, its targeted audience is probably people of a certain class background who could afford the overpriced tickets – in

addition to the national filmmakers and actors. But don’t the indigenous get any credit? For instance, during the München Film Fest in Germany, over 200 feature films, documentaries, and TV movies are screened each year from all over the world; and most importantly, in about 12 different venues with suitably-priced tickets. Meanwhile at the CIFF, the problem lies where the international films are displayed only at select festival venues and ignored by theatres throughout the city, narrowly displaying Hollywood-narrated movies in addition to, of course, national ones.[1]

Sherif Al-Shobashy, former President of CIFF, stated to Al Bawaba News that during the festivals of ‘Cannes’ or ‘Berinale’, the entire cities are overwhelmed with their film festival vibes, which helps achieve touristic goals, and grabbing tourists for a film festival is the best accomplishment any festival could make. Al-Shobashy also added that the main reason behind the dominance of other global festivals is due to the fact that the governments of the countries where these festivals are held usually take the regulations and extra demands needed with a sacred manner; unlike in Egypt, when asked for the basic demands for the festival, the usual answer is, “Do I look like I have time for festivals?”

We might look at the top, but we’re really not.

Not to mention, that the CIFF is categorized as a ‘level A’ festival, according to the international federation of producers; thus, it competes on the same scale as all international festivals, regardless of the fact that a multiple number of these other festivals take place at the same time as the CIFF. It’s substantial to have the exclusivity of screening films for the first time, just so the filmmakers will earn the glorious publicity the nature of their career needs.

However, according to Youssef Rizk -Allah, President of the CIFF, Egypt gives more credit to Hollywood productions rather than European ones; disregarding the vast amounts of European films that are produced yearly when measured up with Hollywood. Therefore, Europeans naturally search for other international festivals which would appreciate their work [2]. Should giving credit to diverse cultural experiences shaped in films really become that massive issue which obstructs the success of the CIFF? Is it seriously too hard to actually accept the display of global movies in return of international recognition and prominence for the festival?

Money talks, even in art.

One last reason, and one of the most important ones, is that the CIFF has been going through financial issues for some time. Hussein Fahmy, former president of the festival for 4 consecutive years, stated in Rose Al Youssef Weekly magazine, that the budget is too low to even cover the festival itself; and it’s logical that they receive a proper amount of money in exchange of their participation in an international festival. In addition to monetary awards which are going downhill, compared to other festivals, like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, whose awards reach $100,000 or $200,00. On the contrary, the CIFF’s grant is a maximum of 100,000 EGP; in fact, some of the films made and showcased at the festival received more financial support[3].

Perhaps most of the time in any festival, the focus is on the red carpet looks and latest trends; rarely do we ever pay attention to the core of the festival’s goal. In that case, it is exchanging cultures and exploring different points of view and stories in a more opulent, professional manner. Not knowing who’s behind the  catastrophe of not only the CIFF, but also every other Egyptian film festival, is not as important as taking steps to make sure these problems are gone by 2017.

Do you agree?

Can you add more to these issues? Do you disagree with any of these points? Do you think there’s some way to save the Cairo International Film Festival? Let us know in the comments.





About Farida Gamal

I’m majoring in mass communication because I’m really interested in script-writing! I’ve always loved writing and have always had a passion for movies, so practically I killed two birds with one stone and enrolled as a writer for the Film section in Cairo Contra! I’m intensely trying my very best to give my full potential to everything I love, and ignore all the circumstances that could lead me to give up on what it is I’m passionate for!

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