Cinema makers strike to remove head of syndicate

Menna Taher, Wednesday 16 Feb 2011

Members of the Cinema Syndicate are on their fourth day of strike action and will not leave until all their demands are met

Film Syndicate

It is 10 o’clock in the morning on 16 February yet the Cinema Syndicate is already buzzing with life. Some people are still sleeping on the floor, others cleaning up, having breakfast or in heated discussions. Posters are plastered at the entrance of the syndicate calling for the removal of Mossad Fouda, its head. One poster illustrating a family tree, reveals all the corrupt names in the industry. Another includes pictures of pro-Fouda people insulting syndicate members. One of the men making an insulting hand gesture was highlighted in red. Next to it is written, “These are the people of Mosaad Fouda.”

The members are now in their fourth day of a strike that calls for the removal of Fouda and the entire committee that heads the syndicate and who are restraining artistic endeavours and using the syndicate’s budget for their own benefit.

The syndicate members filed a case with the General Prosecutor against the thugs Fouda let out on the protestors in Tahrir Square, for accusing members on national television of taking bribes and meals for protesting in Tahrir and for the misuse of public funds among several other cases.

Walaa Saada, a film editor, said that the committee takes very expensive trips at the expense of the syndicate’s budget which only benefits 5 per cent of syndicate members. “We don’t even know what these trips are for,” she continued.

Members were also angry that Fouda has stopped all work in the syndicate so that many pensions have still not been paid and many sick members are in need of financial support.

Ever since the beginning of the 25 January revolution, Fouda was not complying with the position of the members. His direct involvement with the corrupt regime made him unsupportive of the protests and he was among those that accused the protestors of taking bribes. He did not even assist in gaining the release of syndicate members who were detained in the early days of the revolution.

Members were offended by his position because it does not represent them and because it is insulting to the memory of the film editor Hazem Zeidan, one of the martyrs of the revolution, as well as the injured and detained members.

“We’re not leaving the syndicate for two reasons,” Saada said “We want to keep all the papers which prove there are irregularities within the syndicate’s budget and to keep the syndicate away from Fouda’s men.”

Fouda sent the military police to the syndicate three times so far by filing incorrect complaints that syndicate members have destroyed it and stolen money from the treasury. He has also sent some of his men to insult members on Sunday 13 February.

The strike is currently headed by nine members including filmmaker Ali Badrakhan and scriptwriter Mohamed Hassane until fair elections can take place.

The members also refuse to accept Fouda's resignation because according to the annulations of the law no 100 he is not eligible.

Hassane told Ahram Online that the syndicate has been suffering since the days of former Egyptian president Anwar El Sadat. “Our syndicate’s services have gone down to just having a telephone server,” he said “We don’t even have a proper syndicate. It is a small, rented apartment which is too small for its 6000 members.”

Hassane continued to explain that 2000 of those members are not even working in cinema and only joined to vote for Fouda. “It doesn’t make sense that Ali Badrakhan would lose to him,” he said.

“Fouda was appointed to the post by the police state we were living in,” Hassane said “This also applies to Mamdouh El Leithy, the former head of the syndicate.”

Mamdouh el Leithy was a police officer before taking the post in 1989 and Mossad Fouda mainly worked for television, yet has only directed three commercial films since 2004.

“Fouda hasn't a clue about cinema. I don’t think he has ever seen or touched a cinema camera before,” Hassane continued in a tone full of sarcasm and fury over the mishaps of the old system. “I had offered Wim Wenders (one of the most important filmmakers in German cinema) to stay at my place in Egypt so we could offer screenings of his films at the syndicate. They didn’t know who he was.”

“The syndicate is below the line of poverty in culture, creativity and cinema awareness,” he stated “They even refuse to grant memberships to filmmakers, who have won prizes abroad like Ahmed Abdalla and Ibrahim El Batout.”

According to Hassane, there were also around 2000 or 3000 creative projects that were never implemented. “They only support films like Kar Kar and Elly Bally Ballak,” he continued, “These films are a disgrace. They spread ignorance and notions that demean women.”

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