It was the first film festival to be launched in the Arab world, but sadly — due to political unrest and economic instability — the future of the Cairo International Film Festival (Ciff) remains uncertain.
Not only is the 35th edition of Ciff failing to attract major stars, it has also seen the last-minute withdrawal of an anticipated Egyptian movie in protest over the current situation in Cairo. Additionally, the festival’s opening night, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed until last night by event director Ezzat Abou Ouf, due to the two “million-man” protests that were taking place in Tahrir Square. According to Ciff 2012’s press office, the decision to postpone launch night was to “ensure the safety of all guests and attendees, as well as the security of roads and traffic to and from Cairo Opera House.”
At the time of going to print, organisers told tabloid! that if violence was to continue, there was a possibility the festival “could be postponed indefinitely.”
Last year, Ciff was cancelled entirely in the wake of the Egyptian revolution of 25 January.
Meanwhile, the directors and producers of Egyptian film, In Search of Sand and Oil, have withdrawn their participation from the festival to show solidarity with the ongoing protests against President Mohammad Mursi.
Wael Omar, one of the film’s directors, released a statement saying: “I refuse to participate in a film festival associated with the Ministry of Culture when the Egyptian government is attacking citizens on the streets as they voice their disagreement with Mursi’s undemocratic and unprecedented Constitutional Declaration, which placed him as a dictator.”
Prior to the events of 25 January, Ciff was known for attracting the crème de la crème of the Arab world’s stars, as well as Hollywood actors such as Salma Hayek, Morgan Freeman, Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon. However, this year, the only noticeable big names attending are Lebleba, Nelly, Khalid Abol Naga and Menna Chalabi.
If Ciff 2012 does go ahead, organisers have confirmed that the closing ceremony will occur on December 6 as planned.
Syrian film Al Asheq has been disqualified from Ciff after it emerged that director Abdul Latif Abdul Hamid was a supporter of President Bashar Al Assad.
The withdrawal comes after a number of film personalities criticised Ciff’s decision to include it in its human rights film category.
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