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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Egyptians boycott film festival with Israeli director represented

From AFP:
Egyptian filmmakers who were to sit on the jury of a French film festival in Cairo are boycotting the event because of an Israeli entry, saying they refuse to normalize relations with the Jewish State.

Director Kamla Abu Zikri and actor Asser Yassin told AFP they were boycotting the "Rencontres de l'Image" festival organized by the French embassy's cultural centre (CFCC) in Cairo from April 8-15 after finding out that one of the directors, Keren Ben Rafael, is Israeli.

The festival program had not mentioned Ben Rafael's nationality, only that she graduated from a prestigious French film school.

The decision to quit "is not anti-Jewish, it is to protest against Israeli policies," Yassin told AFP.

"I respect France's freedom to choose the films it wants to show in a festival it is organizing, but I also have the right to take a decision which I feel is right," he added.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel in 1979, but the decision has always been unpopular, particularly in cultural circles that reject such ties and refuse to show Israeli works in Egypt.

Abu Zikri said she withdrew because she rejects "any sort of normalization with Israel."

Filmmaker Ahmed Atef also resigned from the festival last week, prompting the CFCC to remove the Israeli film "Almost Normal" from the list of entries.

But in Paris the foreign ministry insisted that "the film in question is indeed on the program" of the event before the film reappeared on the CFCC list of entries on its website.

The film is listed now in the PDF brochure of the entries.

Here is an Arabic AFP article from the initial decision to withdraw the film before the French changed their minds. This French article details the sequence of events as well.

An Egyptian article by one of the boycotters is a bit more strident:
I was shocked when I read the brochure of the film program, which I received from the center, and was struck by the name of the director "Keren Ben-Rafael," whose film "Almost Normal" mentions events taking place in Tel Aviv. The name and description led me to do research into who this director is, to be surprised in what can only be described as a malignant attempt at infiltration of Israeli films into Egypt, with the assistance of a fifth column in Egypt, which is headed by those who do not hesitate in preaching and advocacy of the achievements of the Zionist film...