LUXOR: Egyptian filmmakers and critics denounced the authorities on Monday for blocking the screening of a “taboo” film about a love story between a Christian woman and a Muslim man.
“We denounce the fact that censorship authorities have prevented the screening of Hesham Issawi’s ‘Cairo Exit’ at the Luxor African Film Festival,” dozens of filmmakers and critics said in a signed statement.
They charged the censorship authorities had failed to respond to festival organizers on whether they could screen the movie even outside the main festival.
“The festival organizers suggested to the censorship authorities that the film be shown only to members of the jury, critics and journalists but they never replied,” the statement said.
“The censorship authorities stalled,” preventing the film from being screened as planned on Monday at the event which opened on Feb. 21 and is to run until Tuesday.
Under Egyptian law, films must obtain a written permit from censorship authorities in order to be screened. Anyone violating the procedure could be sentenced to jail.
“Cairo Exit” —which deals with the ultra-sensitive issue of a relationship between a Muslim and a Coptic Christian —was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York last year.
“The story deals with many issues that touch on the fabric of the Egyptian society,” Issawi, who directed and wrote the movie, said in a statement posted on the website of the Tribeca Film Festival.
“Religious conflict between Moslems and Coptic is one important taboo in Egyptian media [sic],” he added.
Rumors of Coptic-Muslim incidents have often led to deadly violence between the two communities.
Critics of the ban expressed “regrets that such practices continue in Egypt after the Jan. 25  revolution” that toppled the iron-fist regime of president Hosni Mubarak and “adopted the concepts of freedom and civil state.”
“The idea of censorship is ridiculous,” in a country that has emerged from a revolution that toppled an autocratic regime, they said.
Copts, who make up between six and 10 percent of Egypt’s 82-million population, complain of systematic discrimination. Concern has grown over the triumph of Islamists in the first polls since Mubarak’s fall last year.