How We Feel About the Withdrawal of ‘In the Last Days of the City’ from the Cairo International Film Festival
Last month, I met with director and cast of Egyptian movie ‘In The Last Days of The City’ in London where the movie was screened as part of the London Film Festival. Although the movie had been acclaimed at numerous international festivals by then, it was palpable how director Tamer El Said and the cast were anticipating the movie finally opening in the Middle East and North Africa at the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) this month. It was going to be the region’s big premiere, arguably the most important one for a movie that can be described as a love letter to Cairo, with poetic vibes from Beirut and Baghdad.
However, since then, the CIFF announced the movie’s withdrawal from the 38th edition’s official competition. The reasons given for that decision were very vague, El Said told CBC. The fact that it was too exposed at foreign festivals before, or that it was better for their relations with the FIAPF (the federation bringing together producers from all over the world) were reported as reasons for the prompt decision.
The CIFF still didn’t reverse its stand on this despite the many local and international people who spoke up against it, gathering signatures for a petition against the double standards of the international festival. The CIFF stated that it was in no way related to the quality of the movie, but to the process behind selections.
It must be said that the festival’s pressure on selected movies not to be screened elsewhere before being shown at their festival is nothing new. Although nothing formally agreed, the pressure for movie not to screen before the November festival can result in distributors missing out on new markets, which for Egyptian cinema is a crucial loss. Sources tell me that A Day for Women, directed by Kamla Abu Zekri, had to refuse international festival’s solicitations for the sake of their premiering at the CIFF.
Ironically, perhaps, the movie is about the wonders of Khalid, a film director played by Khalid Abdallah, and the struggles he goes through while trying to finish his documentary in the eve of the 2011 revolution. It depicts the independent cultural scene of downtown Cairo and the challenges its youth faces, an important picture for Egyptian culture as a whole. Abdallah opened up about how the repression he’s been feeling as an artist and activist today reminds him of the ones he felt under Mubarak in an interview for The Guardian. He tweeted “And the struggle continues.”
— Khalid Abdalla (@khalidabdalla) November 4, 2016
In support to Khalid Abdallah, Laila Samy, and the rest of the cast and crew, many people spoke up about the CIFF decision, including actor Khaled El Nabawy…
قمت بالتوقيع على بيان لمساندة تامر السعيد فى حقه لعرض فيلمه آخر أيام المدينه فى مهرجان القاهرة السينمائي الدولي..
— Khaled El Nabawy (@KhaledElNabawy) November 4, 2016
British Director of ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ and ‘Hannibal Rising’ also tweeted about it…
— Peter Webber (@PeterWebber) November 5, 2016
Our favourite Khaled Abol Naga obviously did express how he thought the CIFF should reconsider their decision…
— Kal Naga – أبوالنجا (@kalnaga) November 13, 2016
Jack Shenker, former Cairo correspondent for The Guardian and award winning journalist also shared the petition online…
Cairo's Film Festival is censoring 'In the Last Days of the City', having initially invited screening. Petition here https://t.co/gMlvjagSK3
— Jack Shenker (@hackneylad) November 6, 2016
WE SAID THIS: Let us know what you think in the comments.