INTERVIEW: 8th Panorama of European Film promises new sections and more films

Menna Taher , Saturday 7 Nov 2015

Ahram Online speaks to founder Marianne Khoury about this year's Panorama of European Film

Marianne Khoury
Marianne Khoury (Photo: Sherif Sonbol)

With the first cool breeze of November weather, filmgoers in Cairo are yet again in anticipation for the annual film festival season.

The Cairo International Film Festival will be held from 11-20 November, followed by the Panorama of European Film from 25 November to 5 December. 

In an interview with Marianne Khoury, the founder of the Panorama of the European Film, Ahram Online got a glimpse of what this year’s edition has to offer and how the festival evolves each year. 

“The best edition is always the last,” said Khoury. “Each year we develop and add sections.”

The presence of Cairo's first arthouse cinema, Zawya, which is run by Misr International Films, which also puts on the Panorama festival, has helped the festival expand to include four cities: Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta and Minya.

“We have created a model and now the model is being reproduced. There is a demand for it,” Khoury said, adding that the audience for arthouse cinema has also expanded since Zawya opened.

The Palestinian film The Eyes of Thief by Najwa Najjar, starring Khaled Abou El-Naga and Soad Massi, for instance, screened for a week and received such a huge number of audience members that the screening was extended for another week.  

“You also saw many new faces. There are people who came to Zawya for the first time to watch this movie,” said Khoury. “The audience is constantly growing.”

Retrospectives for Egyptian filmmakers are also high in demand at Zawya.

Zawya was not the first attempt Khoury made to screen European and Arab films at a commercial cinema in Egypt; in 2008 she founded Cinemania, in which she rented a hall in City Stars cinema and screened a number of arthouse films such as Le Graine et Le Mulet by Abdellatif Kechiche and Zozo by Josef Fares. However, Cinemania didn’t manage to find much of an audience. Many of the screenings were empty.

“The success of Zawya goes to the growing youth culture that has an interest in such cinema,” she explained. “The youth are involved in the process. They choose the films and add their suggestions. They also connect with one another through the different cities.”

Social media networks have also had their role in advertising for the events at Zawya and expanding the circle of the Zawya audience.

Zawya has also established a distribution house, which now helps many films that otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to be distributed commercially like the documentary film Um Ghayeb (Mother of the Unborn) by Nadine Salib and the feature film Bab Al Wadaa (The Gate of Departure) by Karim Hanafy.

Zawya is also organising the Panorama this year and is exerting an influence on the festival by contributing to the choice of films and improving the festival’s system and management, Khoury says. This year almost 60 films will be shown as part of the Panorama.

The European film selection, which is the main selection of the festival, is the largest so far. Some of the most notable films this year include the Italian film Mia Madre by Nani Moretti, a drama about loss and filmmaking, and The Lobster, a comedic satire whose characters have to find love in 45 days or else be turned into wild animals.

There is also a Balkan focus this year, with films from Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo.

“Eastern Europe is one of the most difficult places to get films from, but their cinema is very good,” said Khoury.

A selection of Greek shorts titled “a journey through Greece in a time of crisis” will also be screened.

There are several other sections, some old, some new and some that have been in previous editions but developed this year.

The Emerging Directors, a section that has been in previous editions, screens debut films by European filmmakers. Crossroads, a new section this year, will be screening several films that are co-produced by Arab and European countries.

One of the interesting additions is a section titled Carte Blanche in which Egyptian filmmakers choose a film that has inspired and influenced them. This year the veteran filmmaker Mohamed Khan, and young filmmakers Hala Galal and Amr Salama, will give talks about the films they have chosen.

Producer Pierre Grunstein, who produced Polanski’s film Tess, will also give a talk, and the film will be screening in the festival’s Classics section.

A tribute to the Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, who passed away this year, will also take place. De Oliveira passed away at the age of 106, and had witnessed the history of cinema from its silent era. The centenarian only became internationally recognised at the age of 70, and made most of his films in the later stages of his life.

Documentaries also have their share this year with a retrospective of the documentary filmmaker Nicolas Philibert as well as the Documentary Rendez Vous section. One of the films to be screened is Philibert’s In the Land of the Deaf which follows several deaf people from all ages and explores sign language.

“This year we are trying to concentrate on the issue of deafness. Along with Philbert’s film we are also screening the Polish film The Queen of Silence about a deaf gypsy girl in the documentary section,” said Khoury.

Amy, a documentary film about the late English singer Amy Winehouse, who died tragically at the age of 27, is also one of the highlights of the documentary section.

The festival also has an educational agenda. Alongside the screenings there will also be masterclasses and a one-day scriptwriting session. School trips are also being organised.

“We are collaborating with the Lycée Français like every year, but now we are also contacting the German schools, some international schools and some public schools,” Khoury said.

Due to the difficulty of some of these films in cinematic language and form, the festival’s organisers send some files to the teachers about the film’s topic and themes to discuss beforehand.

“The students participate in the discussions following the films but they need a good moderator to ask the right questions and to stir a conversation,” she said.

The new additions to the festival will doubtlessly enrich this year's edition, and as it follows the Cairo International Film Festival, filmgoers in Egypt have a month to look forward to.

“Although there are massive downloads of films and people have been going less frequently to the cinema, I believe that there is a comeback for cinema,” said Khoury. “People are looking for the cinema experience.”

*Ahram Online is the main media sponsor of The Panorama of the European Film and of Zawya.

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