x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

New wave gives hope to Egyptian cinema

The new wave of Egyptian filmmakers are armed with a bolder and more persistent approach, industry insiders say.

Dubai // The new wave of Egyptian filmmakers are armed with a bolder and more persistent approach, industry insiders say.

This cinematic shift was a hot topic at yesterday's panel discussion, Focus on Egyptian Cinema.

Boasting one of the most successful film industries in the region, Egypt records annual box office sales of up to US$55 million (Dh202m). However, a decline in financing, made worse by the global economic downturn, has affected many filmmakers.

As a result, said Ali Abu Shadi, the former chairman of the central censorship department in Egypt, state support for the industry was now being offered.

"The government started providing grants, and five movies were created recently with the sixth currently in production," said Mr Abu Shadi, who also heads the Ismailia International Film Festival.

Mohamed Diab, the Egyptian director of 678, a movie exploring sexual harassment, said funding was still "a huge problem".

"I have faced financial insecurities and experienced years with no projects, but it is not about profit. I am lucky to have a chance now to focus on reflections of real issues," said Diab.

Documentary producers such as Wael Omer (When Birds Dream) said the younger generation of filmmakers was bolder and more courageous.

"We were spoilt about our film industry, then we suddenly woke up and realised there was a market outside the region," said Omer. "The first time I noticed this was seeing The Yacoubian Building screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and there was a line outside the cinema."

The continued success of Egyptian cinema required both financial and moral support, said Mr Abu Shadi.

"The problem in all [developing countries] is censorship, and although it is important, it can limit creativity. However, it is not just from the government; the public is becoming more conservative," he said.

Omer said documentary filmmakers faced even greater challenges.

"Funding is minimal compared to the West and with independent documentaries there is usually a directive to produce something specific," said Omer.

"With the new movement of filmmakers, however, there is that glimmer of change."