The 35th International Mediterranean Film Festival of Montpellier taking place between 25 October to 2 November will pay tribute to Marianne Khoury's work as a director and producer by honouring Misr International Films (MIF).
Few entities have done what Misr International Films has done for the Egyptian film industry over the past four decades. The company, founded by the late Youssef Chahine, has produced and co-produced numerous important titles, including some of the best-selling Egyptian films ever made.
MIF has produced works by many acclaimed filmmakers that went on to leave their mark on Egypt’s cinematic memory, including those of founder Chahine as well as Salah Abou Seif’s 1976 Al Saqa Mat (The Water Bearer Is Dead), Ali Badrakhan’s 1978 Shafiqa w Metwalli (Shafiqa and Metwalli) and Yousri Nasrallah’s 1988 Sariqat Sayfeya (Summersaults). Today, the company continues to serve as one of the region’s most prestigious production companies and a platform for alternative young filmmakers.
Central to the success of MIF is director and producer Marianne Khoury, who manages the company with her brothers Gaby and Elie, as well as her nephew, Ramzi. Khoury, who is Chahine’s niece, began to collaborate with her uncle in 1985, when he named her executive producer of Wadaan Bonaparte (Goodbye, Bonaparte). Since this initial collaborative project, Chahine and Khoury have been artistic partners.
This year, in recognition of Khoury’s work as a passionate and devoted filmmaker as well as her efforts to transform the Egyptian film industry through MIF, the 35th International Mediterranean Film Festival of Montpellier will hold a roundtable discussion and special soirée honouring Khoury. Two of Chahine’s MIF-produced films will also be screened: Al Qahera Menawara b Ahlaha (Cairo As Seen by Chahine, 1991), and Eskendereya Kaman w Kaman (Alexandria, Now and Forever, 1990).
Multiple screenings of other films produced by MIF, including works by Khoury herself, will also take place throughout the duration of the festival.
“Marianne is MIF’s artistic cornerstone,” says Menna El Laithy, an actress who also handles the company’s communications, “she brings an aesthetic, bohemian edge to the enterprise, and working with her contributes a great deal to our own personal growth.”
Khoury directed her first documentary, Zaman Laura (The Time of Laura), in 1999. The film takes viewers on a journey into the world of Laura Laurella, an Egyptian Italian who founded a dance school in Egypt in 1954 and through the school affected the lives of generations growing up in a constantly changing country.
In 2002, she directed Ashiqat Al-Cinema (Women Who Love Cinema), a two-part documentary exploring the lives of women who broke cultural taboos to become important figures in the Egyptian movie industry between 1920 and 1960.
Both documentaries earned her considerable critical acclaim, but it was her daring 2010 documentary, Zelal, co-directed with Mustapha Hasnaoui, dealing with the stigma of mental illness in Egypt, that brought her even wider international recognition. Zelal was an official selection at the 2010 Venice Film Festival and won the FIPRESCI Award for best documentary at the Dubai Film Festival.
All three of Khoury's documentaries are included in the line-up of MIF films that will be screened in Montpellier, as well as five other films by Chahine: Eskendereya Leih? (Alexandria Why?, 1978), Wadaan Bonaparte (Goodbye Bonaparte, 1985), Al Mohager (The Emigrant, 1994), Al Maseer (Destiny, 1997) and Al Akhar (The Other, 1999).
Several other MIF productions will also be shown: Yousry Nasrallah's Sariqat Sayfeya, Sobyan w Banat (Boys, Girls and the Veil, 1995), Atef Hetata's Al Abwab Al Moghlaqa (Closed Doors, 1998), Radwan El-Kashef's Araq Al Balah (Date Wine, 1999), Mustapha Hasnaoui's Indama Toghany Al Maraa (When A Woman Sings, 2003) and Heba Youssry's My Sheherazade (2011).
“The best thing about MIF is that it is not only trying to affect the films being made in Egypt but also the films being seen,” says El Laithy. “This is where an initiative like the Panorama of the European Film, which Marianne founded, comes from.”
The Panorama of the European Film is an initiative launched by Khoury and MIF in 2004 to give Egyptian audiences the chance to enjoy selections of European cinema that would otherwise be inaccessible to Egyptian audiences. The majority of films on the Egyptian market are either Egyptian productions or American blockbusters. Khoury, who has always been passionate abouthich will begin on 27 November and last till 7 December, offers screenings of feature length pictures, short films, documentaries, as well as discussions with several local and auteur cinema, established the Panorama with the long-term goal of generating demand for European films among Egyptian moviegoers.
“Another great thing about MIF is the support it gives to independent filmmakers,” El Laithy adds. “A clear example is the ‘Women in the New Egypt’ project.”
"Women in the New Egypt" is a project created by MIF in collaboration with the British Embassy in Cairo. Through this project, MIF will fund the production of five short films by young Egyptian female directors. The films will be screened at this year’s Panorama of the European Film.
Another initiative by MIF, "Misr Film Focus," aimed at strengthening the opportunities of emerging Egyptian filmmakers, is one which Khoury herself brought to life. Gaye El Zaman (The Time is Coming), a feature film by director Dina Hamza, is currently in production as part of this project.
Also as part of its role in shaping the film industry in Egypt, MIF has ownership and distribution rights of over 100 feature and documentary films, and contributes to the distribution of Arabic and international films in movie theatres across Egypt and on Egyptian TV channels. The company is a shareholder in numerous Egyptian movie theatres and multiplexes, managing more than thirty cinema screens between Cairo and Alexandria. MIF has recently introduced the 3D and IMAX cinema experiences to Egyptian audiences, which it aims to introduce to more movie theatres in Egypt in the near future.
The MIF and Marianne Khoury films screening at the International Mediterranean Film Festival programme is available here.