Among the artists' complaints are that the culture minister appointed Ezzat Abu-Ouf and Soheir Abdel-Kader to run the festival. They claim the two are unfit to represent Egyptian cinema's artistic and aesthetic realities.
The film festival is also criticised for organising trips to Luxor and Aswan for foreign delegations, rather than introducing them to young Egyptian actors and filmmakers, who seek inspiration and support.
“The festival invited third-rate commercial actors to parade in their outrageous outfits on the red carpet and did not invite emerging actors to film screenings or discussions, which would have enhanced their futures and the future of Egyptian cinema,” read the group's statement published on Facebook.
The boycotting artists also ridiculed the festival for overlooking crucial issues that pertain to Egyptian cinema, and for not showcasing the true scope of its independent and professional standing.
Director Omar El-Zohairy, who was awarded a special mention for his short film Zafeer at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2011, expressed deep disappointment with the way this year’s festival had been managed.
“A festival is much more than a party and a red carpet,” El-Zohairy told Ahram Online. “It is a chance for young filmmakers to get in touch with their counterparts from around the world.”
“This festival does not represent us,” he said.
Omar El-Zohairy said the festival should be an independent venture, away from government agendas and censorship. “I want it to be cancelled this year,” he added.
He mentioned that a committee, including film producers Mohamed Hefzy and Maryan Khory, was initially organising the festival, but the culture ministry ultimately took over.
“This festival is a failure and has no real value,” El-Zohairy said. “We have a flourishing independent cinema scene, but we are not getting the chance to showcase it.”
The group of filmmakers and actors behind the boycott call, spearheaded by director Hala Lotfy, say the festival is a wasted opportunity to showcase the scope of the young cinema movement in Egypt.
El-Zohairy added that despite showcasing good films, the festival alienates Egyptian filmmakers. “Why are they ignoring us like this?” he asked.
The 35th Cairo International Film Festival brings 175 films from 64 countries to the Cairo Opera House. It opened on 28 November and will close on 6 December.
By Sara Elkamel