Ahram Online (AO): What has changed this year compared to previous film festivals?
Ezzat Abou Auf (EA): We have improved some things and added other things that didn’t exist in previous years. Organisation has improved and there are more conferences, lectures and films this year. The audience has increased, in previous years only three or four people would attend a screening. The quality of the films is better as well as the awareness of the audience. The festival has reached the ‘man on the street’.
AO: Why is that?
EA: Repetition. People need time to get used to something and they trust the festival more this year.
AO: What did you add to the festival this year?
EA: Now we’re on Youtube and we have a high-quality efficient website. We are also focusing on Arab films. It’s the first year we have the Cairo film connection. Twelve films from the Arab world are competing for a LE100, 000 prize. This is a first in the whole region. We are also giving a lot of attention to the heritage of Egyptian films. The title, 'Egypt in the eyes of the world’s cinema’ is the theme this year. The festival is more organised, successful and dazzling. I want to say that the effort is not mine alone, but the combined endeavours of everyone working together. I just give out the framework of the festival.
AO: Why did you decide to focus on Turkish cinema this year?
EA: We had a lot of Turkish films entered in this year’s festival.
AO: What do you think of the films this year? What have you watched so far?
EA: I don’t have that much time to watch films but I managed to watch ‘Microphone’ and ‘El Shouq’. Both are really good. I also watched the Italian film starring Amr Waked. I think that’s the role of his life and I hope he wins a prize for it. I still intend to watch ‘El Trek el Dairy’ and ‘Al Babb’. The Irish film about the war in Bosnia, ‘As if I’m not there’ is also very good.
AO: What about the jury members? What do they think?
EA: I have no idea. I don’t talk to them about their opinions or recommend anything. I have friends, Egyptian actors and producers, who are jury members,. When I meet them I don’t talk about the films as I don’t want to influence their opinions.
AO: What do you think needs to be changed about the festival?
EA: The film market. Until now the only weakness is the film market. It’s not active because we haven’t contacted major production companies in Egypt and abroad but I intend to improve on that if I am the festival’s president next year.
AO: What basis did you choose the guests of honor?
EA: We get a lot of suggestions. Each one has a fee, so we see who we can afford and who is more famous. It takes months to choose.
AO: Why did you decide to include the film connection this year?
EA: The idea came up last year because the problem in the current state of the cinema is in the script. So we thought that would raise the quality of scripts. We also offered a prize of LE100,000. And not only that, we will also produce it. With that we will improve the most important aspect of the film’s quality, the script.
AO: Is this a long-term plan?
EA: Yes. We had twelve scripts the first year, which is good. If it proves successful we will have more scripts next year.
AO: What do you think of the current film scene in Egypt?
EA: As everywhere else in the world, we have been facing a problem in the film industry after the economic recession. As an actor, I was in six films in 2008. Last year I was in three and this year in one. Even the production itself is down from 80 films a year to 60 and now 40. But this is happening all over the world, in France, Belgium and Italy because cinema is both an art and an industry.
AO: But there are good films with low budgets.
EA: This is true. There are very good independent films made with a small budget but I still hope that this situation won’t last for long. This shouldn’t affect the industry itself, which depends on big productions, superstars and megastars.