x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Diff makes pride of place for Cairo Exit

Tonight¿s gala screening takes place, in part, because of a grant from Enjaaz, a Dubai Film Market initiative.

DUBAI // Tonight's gala screening of Cairo Exit takes place, in part, because of a grant it received from the Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) fund.

Cairo Exit is one of several projects awarded post-production funding by Enjaaz, a Dubai Film Market initiative.

The film tells the story of an 18-year-old Coptic girl living in the slums of Cairo, and her painfully complicated relationship with Tarek, her Muslim boyfriend who is planning to leave Egypt on an illegal boat crossing to Italy.

Sherif Mandour, a champion of the contemporary Egyptian independent cinema movement and the producer of Cairo Exit and Heliopolis (which premiered in Abu Dhabi last year) said the project was a difficult one to pull off because it was rejected by censorship committees and TV channels.

"This film was produced outside the normal cycle of the film industry in Egypt," he said. "I prefer to call it an 'alternative' or 'different' film, rather than independent, because with any film there must be a source of funding and this was one of the many difficulties we had to overcome."

The Diff artistic director, Masoud Amralla al Ali, described the film as an ideal choice for the Enjaaz fund.

"We have a committee who select the films on the basis of a number of criteria - including the message, the quality of the script and screenplay, and this film deserved to be chosen," he said.

The cast and crew of the film spoke yesterday before the film's Middle East premiere tonight at the Madinat Arena in Dubai. Hesham Issawi, the director of Cairo Exit, said he was inspired to make the film after seeing Mandour's Heliopolis, adding that Egyptian cinema needed more producers like him.

Cairo Exit is the first Arabic film that Mr Issawi has made in his home country, Egypt. Before that, he was making films in California and is most noted for his 2007 film AmericanEast, about Arab Americans living post 9/11.

aseaman@thenational.ae