Festival sink or swim?

Sarah El Sirgany
4 Min Read

The success or failure of the Cairo International Film Festival hangs in the balance

Five reasons why we think the Cairo International Film Festival will succeed:

1. International celebrities Jacqueline Bisset and Danny Glover. French actress Jacqueline Bisset is one of the icons of both French and American cinema. The legendary actress has worked with some of the greatest directors of the medium such as John Huston, Roman Polanski and François Truffaut. Illustrious actor Danny Glover is one of the few American actors who have been able to combine critical and commercial success with films that include the “Lethal Weapon series and “The Color Purple. These film icons add to the festival’s profile and act as attraction elements for both the media and the public.

2. The promised increase in international media coverage. It helps in creating hype for the festival abroad, which consequently builds its credibility.

3. The combined presidency of Ezzat Abu Ouf and honorary President Omar El-Sherif. Between the two, there are enough diplomacy and contacts to make any cultural event a sure success. Plus, both have shown real intent on revitalizing the festival.

4. Strong competition section. Evaluating the success of any festival in the end comes down to its international competition. This year features a number of strong productions including Egyptian films whose cast and crew promise not to disappoint.

5. The return of the film market. Like the competition, film festivals are also judged by the strength of their markets. The re-launch of the once-dropped film market promises to attract more producers and distributors over the following years, which consequently boosts the reputation of the festival.

Five reasons why we think the festival will fail:

1. There aren’t enough premiers. The festival features less than a handful of movie premiers. But unlike past years, when the number of high profile movies would cover the premier drawback; this year features fewer of what the industry labels as important productions.

2. The media fails to recognize some of the acclaimed filmmakers attending the festival. While local media professionals are familiar with Arab filmmakers and mainstream American stars, they don’t recognize the faces or the works of the lesser-known industry professionals in spite of their celebrated careers.

3. Low turnout of audiences at movie theaters screening festival films. Over the past years the number of festival fans has decreased to the extent of seriously hampering the festival’s revenues, which is one of the most important sources of funding. The impact of a new promotional plan to sell more tickets has yet to be tested this year.

4. Previous years have shown confusions between panels and press conferences. Following film screenings the meeting of cast and crew with media professionals never takes a set format, which leads to augmenting confusion and occasional quarrels. Both critics and cast and crewmembers fail to reach a middle ground from which they can conduct a serious and fruitful discussion.

5. The timing of the festival. Due to its timing at the end of the year – in between a series of regional festivals, which are increasingly reputable and highly financed including Dubai and Marrakesh festivals – the Cairo festival struggles to maintain the quality of its films. Although efforts have been made to coordinate the timings of festivals, past years have seen the Cairo festival at the losing end in terms of media hype. Bigger budgets and better organization have won over the artistic history of the Cairo fest.

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