In an article titled “Happy New Year”, I said that 2015 was a bright year for Egyptian cinema and that I was confident that 2016 would continue to be a success.
Since the beginning of 2016, there have been signs that a different type of filmmaker is entering the arena. News broke out during the last week that five Arab films will be showcased in the Forum Expanded section at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival; this is the highest Egyptian participation in the festival yet. Four of these films will be debuts for their creators, featuring Islam Kamal’s “Expired”, Maged Nader’s “Fathy Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, Heba Amin’s “As Birds Flying”, and Tamer Saeed’s feature film “In the Last Days of the City”, while Mayye Zayed’s new film entitled “A Stroll Down Sunflower Lane” will also feature in the forum.
While there are many who wish to take filmmaking in a new direction, this is often hindered by producers who want to play it safe, preferring to keep to the rules and producing something mediocre that the audience is guaranteed to approve of. However a traditional script will not win them any places at international film festivals.
These signs of growth in the Egyptian film industry all come from independent entities. Perhaps big businesses are not prepared to take risks but luckily, there are still filmmakers who want to break the mould.
There is a simple solution: open new cinematic markets.
According to data from the State Information Service, between 1954 and 1962, Egyptian films were distributed to more than 20 countries including India, Pakistan, Greece, the US, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. However nowadays, local films are only shown in Egypt. There are very few attempts to export them and those that are exported usually star Adel Emam and are only watched by Egyptians living abroad.
The more we participate, the more of audience we would reach, of different cultural background. This will contribute to the diversity of Egyptian films and raise their quality.
The controversial film “Cairo 678” was a huge success and took top prize in the 2010 Dubai International Film Festival. The film made headlines abroad after a push for international recognition and is being dubbed for Brazilian audiences. Film companies need to follow suit so that Egyptian films do not fall by the wayside. Misr International Films intends to establish production partnerships with filmmakers from France. Collaborating with foreign markets is the real solution to expanding the scope of Egyptian filmmaking. Perhaps one day we will see an Egyptian film nominated for an Oscars.
Mohamed Abdel Kareem is a journalist and a columnist in different of newspapers and magazines including Dostour, Tahrir, Sayidaty, and Rotana. Abdel Kareem has a number of short films such as “The Painter”, “Mestany”, and “Not Entering the Festival”. The films participated in international festivals in France, the US, Macedonia, among others.