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INTERVIEW: Marianne Khoury on Dahshur residencies to develop Egypt's film artists, critics

The workshops aim to develop Egypt's young talents

Mohamed Atef, Friday 9 Sep 2016
Marianne Khoury
Marianne Khoury (Photo: Sherif Sonbol)
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The filmmaker and producer Marianne Khoury has launched a series of film workshops which aim at developing Egyptian creativity in the cinema field and beyond. 

Held under the umbrellas of the Dahshur residences project and led by a number of prominent film critics and filmmakers, the first series of workshops will take place between 19 and 23 September. 

This will be the Dahshur Film Critic Workshop.

The workshop will be held by Jean-Michel Frodon, journalist and film critic at the weekly Le Point and Le Monde and most recently editorial director of Cahiers du cinema (2003-2009).

Marianne Khoury spoke to Ahram Online about the workshops and her vision of going deep into the development of young creative talents.

Ahram Online (AO): How was the idea of Dahshur residencies born?

Marianne Khoury (MK): Since 2011, I have been organising meetings and workshops that focus on research and creativity. They are held at my family house, built 20 years ago in Dahshur, some 35km south of Cairo. Covering the area of one feddan, the house is located at the feet of the Dahshur Pyramid. Designed in a rural style, the space is suitable for hosting a large number of guests, and the positive energy of the place helps boost creativity and invites contemplation.

The idea to hold film workshops more regularly came as a natural sequence of the events.

Right after the 2011 revolution, Misr International, the production company founded by my uncle, filmmaker Youssef Chahine, launched a new initiative called Misr Film Focus. It aimed at helping young talents develop their skills in scriptwriting. 

The experience of having attended a variety of meetings that focus on scriptwriting and numerous film festivals helped me realise that the most difficult phase of the scriptwriting is in its fine tuning. It is also this stage that is decisive when a scriptwriter searches for funds to support its development.

Misr Film Focus paid a lot of attention to this segment of work, and it is a regular procedure done by international festivals to support films in development.

From over 120 scenarios that were submitted to the initiative, we selected six and helped the writers to sharpen them on the one hand and put them in touch with entities that may be interested in their work on the other hand.

We were supported by an expert in the field, Jacques Akchoti a Lebanese filmmaker who met the six participants in Dahshur. He remained in touch with them through Skype for the following year and a half. Our production company has even realized three of the projects.

AO: Does the Misr International company provide an umbrella for the Dahshur residencies?

MK: The success of the workshop with Akchoti inspired us to create an independent company called MK Production. Under its aegis we will hold a variety of regular film and art workshops, while continuing to work on the development of film scripts. 

To tell you the truth, I am particularly interested in these development projects, lthough they are quite difficult, because I think this is an important phase of the work that needs support, even if the results are will not be immediately palpable.

AO: The upcoming workshop will be attended by the French critic Jean-Michel Frodon for which you are choosing the participants. Will there be other workshops any time soon?

MK: So far we have opened the doors of two workshops that revolve around film criticism and scriptwriting.

The first, a film criticism workshop, is scheduled for mid-September and will be conducted by Jean-Michel Frodon, who has selected twelve participants from those who have applied. The candidates were asked to write articles about films from a list compiled by Frodon.

The second workshop will be led by Ayman El-Amir, a specialist in re-writing and development of film scripts. He is also a member of the editorial boards of several festivals, and collaborates with the Torino Lab and the Doha Film Institute.

El-Amir will focus on five scenarios through workshops held in October, February and June. The goal is to improve the writing of these scenarios, so they can get funding, especially from abroad.

We will also working on launching a third workshop in the near future. It will be held by one of the experts from the Robert Bosch Foundation. He will work with the people interested to work as producers.

AO: Though the upcoming workshop Film Critic Workshop costs EGP 1000 [USD 110], the fee will not cover all the costs. How do you finance the Dahshur residencies?

MK: So far we mainly rely on our own resources. If we want to move the cinema profession forward, it is our duty as a production house to support such initiatives. The French Institute in Egypt is covering the travel expenses of Frodon. In parallel, I am searching for other sources of funding.

AO: Is your project a way of bringing Misr International’s visibility back to the cinema scene?

MK: It is just a way to develop projects that need to be implemented. I am personally very involved in this work as I see it as paramount. If I can help these young filmmakers in their work, perhaps we can attract foreign co-producers to support them too.

AO: Can those workshops create a new voice in the Egyptian cinema?

MK: Why not? Although I have not thought about it this way. Egyptian cinema continues to surprise us. Look at the recent films such as Clash or Hepta, and their success among the viewers. They are a proof that our viewers want to see different movies. That’s a good sign.

This interview was first pubished in Al Ahram Hebdo.

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