42nd Cairo International Film Festival in jeopardy amid coronavirus lockdown

Eslam Omar , Monday 1 Jun 2020

If the festival is not canceled or postponed, other options include reducing activities, having minimal attendance, and online streaming


Amid global lockdown measures caused by the coronavirus pandemic and with only a few months left till the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), organisers are facing a tough decision that will determine the fate of the 42nd edition of the festival.

With the spread of the virus obstructing filming globally, top cinema festivals have been forced to postpone or cancel this year's editions, including Cannes, which was cancelled in May. However, some festivals will proceed, including the Venice festival, whose planners announced days ago that they will hold minimal activities in their upcoming edition in September, despite the tough conditions in Italy.

The CIFF director Mohamed Hefzy has announced that a detailed press release will be issued by the festival's board this week to address enquiries regarding the future of the CIFF's 42nd edition.

CIFF director Mohamed Hefzy

The board of the festival, which is scheduled for November, has been in ongoing meetings and discussions since the crisis broke out, but the final decision still has not been made given that is it unclear how long the crisis will last and when travel will resume.

On Sunday, the CIFF's artistic director Ahmed Shawky told a radio station that "all scenarios are still possible amid the current situation."

"We have been in discussions over the past two months. Circumstances could force cancelation, but the most agreed upon plan so far is to prepare normally for the next edition while taking into consideration all possible expectations," explained the Egyptian film critic.

CIFF artistic director Ahmed Shawky

While other festivals have been suspended in Egypt, ideas like reducing activities, holding the festival without public attendance or turning to online streaming platforms are possible options for the CIFF as well.

"I think we must plan for it to be held as scheduled in case changes happen," prominent Egyptian critic Tarek El-Shennawy, a member of the CIFF consultancy panel, told Ahram Arabic news website earlier on Monday.

"But from my point of view, I believe we can't present a final decisive vision before August," added El-Shennawy, explaining that Egyptians should look to the Venice festival preparations.

Egyptian critic Tarek El-Shennawy

Organised by the Ministry of Culture in Egypt and sponsored by many public and private entities, the 41st edition of the CIFF, named after former longtime artistic director Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, was quite successful, screening over 150 films from 63 countries and holding various parallel activities.

Under the helm of prominent filmmaker Hefzy, new categories have been added to the competitions and various panels and workshops have made a big part of the prestigious festival, with side events like Cairo Industry Days proving to be a success.

Currently, all movie theatres are closed in the 100-million-strong country, same as all cultural, sports and entertainment venues, with the number of recorded infections surpassing 25,000 and with almost 1,000 dead.

With airports closed, Egypt has applied stricter precautionary measures this week in addition to the 8pm-to-5am curfew, including obligatory facemasks at public venues and on transportation.

So far, the coronavirus has infected over 6.1 million globally and caused the death of over 370,000 people.

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