CAIRO: Hours before its opening last Friday, the Cairo Independent Film Festival was postponed due to what a Rawabet Theater official said was missing paperwork sealing the approval of the Ministry of Culture.
The festivals committee at the Ministry of Culture has assigned a smaller committee headed by Ali Abou Shady to examine the festival and depending on their decision, it will proceed at a later date or be canceled altogether.
The festival’s opening ceremony was scheduled for Nov. 21 at Rawabet Theater, but has been postponed until the committee makes a decision.
Its first round in 2006 was lauded by critics and independent filmmakers. However in 2007 the state censor put a last minute halt on the festival’s functions, which had to be canceled a few days before its scheduled opening night.
“Last year we didn’t follow all the necessary legal procedures but this year we did and had all the required documents ready so we are surprised that they would put the festival on hold until a committee ‘researches and examines it’ as if we are doing something illegal, not holding a cultural event, they could just tell us straight to our face that this festival is banned, said Mohamed Abdel Fattah, director of the festival.
“It’s true we were a little late in submitting some necessary papers but not to cause this dilemma, he said.
“The postponement of the festival wasn’t from our side, said Talaat Rawabet, a partner and board member of Rawabet Theater. “The festival’s committee is supposed to supervise and support us, he added.
There are many parties involved in the [Cairo] Independent Film Festival whether it’s the festival’s administration, Rawabet Theater’s administration or the volunteers and participants, according to Yasser Gerab, member of Rawabet Theatre’s administrative board and cultural counselor at Qafilat Hala Organization.
“Rawabet’s administration told the festival’s organizing body to make sure they have all the required permits and approvals in order to protect the festival and its activities, however the festival’s administration have been slow in terms of taking all the necessary steps to get those approvals, Gerab explained.
“The mistake they did could even cause the whole place [Rawabet Theatre] to shut down, he added.
“We are currently working with all the responsible parties and issuing all the required permits and approvals so we would open the festival on Nov. 30 but we will never cancel it, Gerab said.
Ibrahim El Batout, whose groundbreaking “Ein Shams was scheduled to be screened on the opening night, said, “We contacted most of the members of the smaller committee and they are welcoming the idea and promised to do the best they can to make the festival happen, said El Batout. “Right now we are negotiating with them to get the approval as soon as possible so we would have the opening of the festival by Nov. 30 or Dec. 1, he explained.
There were circulating rumors that the Ministry of Culture has created these impediments for the Independent Film Festival in order not to have it corresponding with the Cairo International Film Festival. “Having the two festivals overlapping is beneficial for both as the international filmmakers will have a chance to see different types of Egyptian movies and will enrich their experience, explained Abdel Fattah.
The festival is scheduled to screen 19 films from 20 countries around the world and 45 films from the region. Some 30 experimental short productions (one to three minutes), which are mostly the product of filmmaking workshops, will also be screened. Three workshops have already started, as part of the festival’s functions: one is an animation workshop, and the other two are general filmmaking workshops, one for beginners and another for advanced level.
On a final note, Abdel Fattah said that if they don’t get a word from the festivals committee by Tuesday or Wednesday, they will have to cancel the festival altogether but will only keep the workshops going.