The Cairo International Film Festival began Tuesday at the Egyptian Opera House, but with slim participation that saw half of the seats left vacant.
Observers attributed the sparse attendance to the world's tense political situaion following terrorist attacks in the US and the beginning of the American-led military campaign against Afghanistan.
A number of critics and observers told AFP that they anticipated a public boycott of the festival, in addition to cancellations by a number of American and European guests who feared the eruption of war in the region.
“We had two options: either to cancel the festival in light of the present circumstances, or going ahead with it after completing our preparations for celebrating the festival's silver jubilee,” the festival head Hussein Fahmi said at the opening ceremony, adding “We have chosen the second option.”
Fahmi added that “We have chosen to go ahead with the festival, despite our sadness over the recent attacks and the absence of a large number of guests, [despite] the number of participating films and the presence of an international jury headed by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami."
Members of the international jury were keen on attending the festival and they all participated in the opening ceremony, except for Italian national Anglo Libertini who came late due to the runway accident at Milan airport.
A recorded speech by American actor Danny Glover was presented to the audience, in which he expressed his delight at receiving a festival award. He sent his regrets for not being able to come to Cairo, and called for peace among all peoples through art, culture and tolerance.
The ceremony announcer, Yusra, announced the names of the jury and those to receive awards, including Tawfiq Saleh, 75, director of he film Al Makhdoua' (Cheated) based on the novel Rigal Tahet Al Shams (Men Under the Sun) by the late Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani.
This is in addition to an award for Egyptian star Fairouze, who had starring roles in many films during her childhood in the 1940s and 1950s.
The beauty of the French film The Destiny of Emily Paulan, by Jon Pierre Johnny, which was designated for the opening ceremony, masked the slim participation - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)