The Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre (CIFET) is one of two large-scale state-run festivals taking place in Egypt (the second being the Cairo International Film Festival). The festival's 27th edition will kick off 1 September 2020, the event's new management announced.
For years, the festival was presided over by the head of the Academy for Theatrical Arts, Fawzi Fahmy, and later replaced by Sameh Mahran.
The festival's 27th edition will be headed by Alaa Abdel Aziz Suleiman, a young theatre maker who steps in with numerous changes and adjustments.
One of the fundamental decisions taken by Suleiman is bringing back the festival's original name — the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre — which it held since the event's founding in 1988 until 2010. The festival's continuity was interrupted by the January 2011 revolution and the many changes that took place in Egypt's artistic scene in the following years. After five-year hiatus, the festival returned in 2016 with its 23rd edition and a new name: the Cairo International Festival for Experimental and Contemporary Theatre (CIFCET).
Adding the term “contemporary" to the festival's name triggered criticism from some theatre practitioners and experts, pointing to the confusion in terminology (whereas “experimental" specifies the format, “contemporary" refers to the time aspect).
With Suleiman dropping the word “contemporary" from the festival's title, the event opens up to all theatrical texts and capitalises on innovative theatrical works that embed new concepts and techniques in stage production.
Suleiman also announced that Fawzi Fahmy will be the festival's honorary president. An Egyptian theatre academic and former head of the Academy of Theatrical Arts, Fahmy played a crucial role in laying the ground for CIFET in the 1980s and remained its president for several editions. As Suleiman underscored, Fahmy has left an important fingerprint on the festival, while being a mentor and professor of a generation of theatre makers, many of whom are involved in CIFET today.
Suleiman has also decided to bring back the festival's competitive character, one that characterised the event between 1988 and 2010. The prizes will be awarded for best performance, best director, best scenography, best actor and best actress.
Throughout its editions, the festival expanded, and the number of troupes hosted also grew. In the 2000s, the number of performances reached over 50 international troupes, making it a highly competitive festival but also demanding a huge budget for its execution. Upon the festival's return after the 2011 revolution, the event dropped its competitive character, and limited the number of performances.
The festival overhaul announced by Suleiman points to his aspiration to revive the values that the event embodied in its first years following its launch.
Suleiman announced that the festival will kick off 1 September, a date the festival occupied during its first two decades, before later moving between mid-September and October.