Egyptian delegation at Swedish Arab film festival harassed by pro-Brotherhood protestors

Ahram Online, Thursday 5 Sep 2013

Pro-Muslim Brotherhood protestors in Sweden confronted the Egyptian delegation at the Malmo Arab Film Festival, which features a number of films from Egypt

Malmo banner
Malmo Arab Film Festival banner hangs in city of Malmo, Sweden. (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

The Egyptian delegation attending the third annual Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden, in which films from Egypt are competing, were harassed by pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters at the festival's opening, 2 September.

Amir Ramses, director of documentary film Jews of Egypt, which competes in the Malmo Festival's documentary category, told Al-Ahram Arabic website that approximately 30 individuals, some of whom were Egyptians living in Sweden, surrounded the Egyptian delegation on the red carpet at the festival opening in the Swedish city Malmo, fervently chanting against them while holding up yellow Rabaa posters (associated with supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi).

The Egyptian Cinema Syndicate, headed by filmmaker Mosaad Fouda, released a statement Wednesday condemning the attack, announcing that many Egyptian artists contacted the Egyptian ambassador to Sweden to complain.

Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Wednesday that Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel Moity announced that Egyptian Ambassador to Sweden Osama El-Magdoob alerted Swedish authorities to the need to offer protection for members of the 15-member Egyptian delegation at the Malmo Festival.

Fouda revealed that some of the Egyptian artists cut their trips short, feeling that the "atmosphere was not suitable" for cultural festivities.

Filmmaker Amir Ramses posted on Facebook that directors Ahmed Atef and Mohamed Amin and actress Abeer Sabry also decided to return to Egypt.

Ramses and a number of actors, filmmakers and journalists decided to stay, however, adamant on not yielding to the threat of violence.

"Those of us who decided to stay believe that this will not be the first time that the Brotherhood attack us, and we will not give them the satisfaction of ruining the Egyptian presence at the festival, at any cost," Ramses posted on Facebook Wednesday. "We are willing to take the risk and responsibility, because if we back down today it will be a precedent for them to hunt us down and attack us everywhere."

Art and politics don't mix, or do they?

In the wake of Morsi's ouster and the dispersal of weeks-long sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda squares on 14 August, Egypt's culture sector has fragmented on the current political crisis. Yet at a press conference held 20 August at the Supreme Council of Culture in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood was labelled as a terrorist organisation.

Egyptian film critic Yousef Sherif Rizkalla blamed festival management for lax security, saying that the group of Egyptian artists could have fallen victim to violence.

Rizkalla added: "I do not believe that what happened in Malmo could have occurred in film festivals held in Gulf countries, which have declared their support for Egypt, yet it could happen in a Tunisian festival for instance, since they endorse the Islamist current."

He continued; "I do not believe that political relations could affect Egypt's relationship with international festivals, since filmmakers, actors and production companies are not involved political affairs."

However, Turkish film “Lal Gece” (Night of Silence) by filmmaker Reis Çelik was recently excluded from the Alexandria Film Festival, which has been postponed due to unrest in Egypt, to start 9 October, due to the Turkish government's political stance on Egypt, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The festival coordinator reportedly sent an email cancelling the film's involvement in the festival, stating political tension between Turkey and Egypt as the reason. He was referring to the Turkish government's endorsement of the ousted Morsi regime.

Hurriyet Daily News reported that Night of Silence director Çelik expressed his disappointment in a letter to the festival director, stating: "States and governments may always have problems with each other, but art has always been the glue of ties between publics and it should always be. Moreover, in such a difficult environment, art helps to soften the atmosphere. Apart from that, the Turkish people wish democracy for everyone in Egypt."

Run by director Mohamed Keblawi, the third edition of the Malmo Arab Film Festival is screening more than 100 films from Palestine, Qatar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, among other Arab countries. Out of the feature films in the official competition, three are Egyptian: El-Shetta Elli Fat (Winter of Discontent), Asham (A Man Called Hope) and Baad El-Mawkeaa (After The Battle).

Four documentary Egyptian films are competing in the feature documentaries competition: Onny, Jews of Egypt, NO, and Eyes of Freedom, Street of Death.

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