Marianne Khoury on 9th Panorama of European Film: Fresh, courageous, reflective

Nahed Nasr, Tuesday 1 Nov 2016

Ahram Online talks to Marianne Khoury, the Panorama's president, about the festival's progress since it was first launched in 2004

Marianne Khoury
Marianne Khoury (Photo: Al Ahram)

Ahram Online (AO): This edition is the ninth of the Panorama of the European Film Festival. How do you feel about this achievement?

Marianne Khoury (MK): Actually this is the 12th year of the Panorama. The first edition took place in 2004. Between 2005 and 2007, Panorama was suspended due to financial difficulties. 

Starting from 2008, we had always been able to run the festival, even during a very critical period in 2011 and the years that followed. Today, when I look back to the first edition of the festival I can see a great progress on different levels.

For example, in 2004, screenings took place in one cinema in Cairo's Manyal suburb. Today, we are screening in ten different locations, in Cairo and in other governorates.

Taking Panorama beyond Cairo is one of our biggest achievements. The expansion began with Minya, Alexandria, and Tanta in the last few years, and continues this year in Alexandria, Ismailia and Port Said where Panorama films will be screened for the first time. All this has been happening despite the economic crisis.

AO: It is obvious that there have also been many administrative and managerial developments. Can you tell as more about them? 

MK: Indeed. Although I am still the president of the Panorama, the whole festival is actually run by a group of young people. They are in charge of everything, starting from the film selection, the screening locations, all the way to every other aspect of the festival, including the programme, the sections etc.  

Giving this responsibility to young people allows them to reflect their own realities and expectations, I believe. They represent how their generation would like to deal with a film festival. And their ways are not necessarily what we [our generation] think is the right thing to do. I find young people's way of managing Panorama very fresh and competitive.

AO: How did the young leaders contribute to the change of Panorama? How is it reflected in the current edition?

MK: All the new features that have been added to this year's Panorama are the work and vision of the young people. I find their choices quite interesting, I must say.

For example, the Urban Lens section which focuses on a new city every year was launched with the vibrant German capital Berlin. This is an eye-opening idea that adds much to the knowledge and the way we deal with the filmmaking industry around the world. 

It also has a cultural value because not only do the films included reflect the developments of the film industry in a certain city but they also portray the cultural and social reality of this city.

To further reflect on this idea, we start the festival with a music night by Berlin-based DJ Habibi Funk. The event allows the Egyptian young people to enjoy some of Berlin spirit. This is an example of what I mean by the fresh and young spirit of the festival.

AO: And why Berlin in specific?  

MK: I guess you need to ask the group who really runs the festival, but I believe that cinematically speaking, Berlin is an interesting choice, putting in mind how it represents a cultural center in Europe, it's strong ties with the Arab world and with Cairo. In addition, Berlin also has a very prominent experience in the film industry.

AO: What tips do you have for the young team that runs the festival now?

MK: Actually I do not have any. On the contrary, they teach me new things that I find very astonishing. 

They are very courageous and very daring... For example, I think it takes significant determination to move the screenings to new locations (Karim cinema for instacee) in Downtown Cairo,  and then to go even beyond the capital, to the governorates that haven't had the film screening culture for many years. 

Placing Panorama in other governorates is a result of a series of workshops and discussion panels during which the team attempted to find out the best ways to implement their idea. They asked themselves many questions such as: what kind of films are suitable for the audience there, or how to attract the audience of a certain area to the screenings. 

All of these issues needed hard work and cooperation between the festival administration and the group of enthusiastic young people in the governorates who are in charge of the screenings there.

At the beginning, we had the festival in one cinema in the Cairo suburb of Manyal; look at how it has developed by to date.

AO: In the press conference, you mentioned that the festival faced some financial difficulties. After many successful sessions of Panorama, do you now expect more support from governmental institutions?

MK: Actually everything we do comes with the agreement of governmental bodies. We receive all necessary permissions and our films are being approved by the censorship authority. We do not work alone.

I believe that since they are supportive on this level, we just need them to continue their support. 

AO: What do you expect the future of the Panorama to be like? What is there to be done?

MK: I believe making Panorama carry on is very important. We need to always find ways to keep developing. As the screening industry technologically progresses day after day, it is becoming more and more challenging to meet audience expectations.  

On the other hand, the screening times have become very limited and expensive. We no longer have access to unlimited screenings, as was the case in the past.

This and many other issues need a lot of work from our side.

AO: Few years ago, it was very rare to screen a European or an independent film away from the few cultural centers in Cairo or during a festival time. Now, we can see the growing strength of alternative film screenings, with European films being screened in many venues inside and outside Cairo. How do you position Panorama in those new realities?

MK: We have launched the Panorama of the European Film; one of our main targets was to create an impact on the public taste. The screening of such films in new places means that they meet the developing needs of the audience.

I believe Panorama has played an important role in this movement, and as such we achieved one of our dreams. We managed to provide the Egyptian audience with the chance to be open to different cinematic realities.  

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