VENICE — A power struggle at the Cairo Film Festival has prompted the ouster as artistic director of Egyptian film critic Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, who is to be replaced by filmmaker and producer Marianne Khoury two months before the chaos-plagued event’s scheduled kick-off in November.
Khoury, who was recently a Cannes Critics’ Week juror, confirmed she has accepted the job offer made over the telephone by the Egyptian Culture Ministry while attending the Venice Film Festival. She was in Venice as exec of her MISR International Films shingle.
“I have been officially appointed,” she said. “I got a call from the minister’s office. I have been receiving lots of emails from people complaining about the situation, which is crazy. Once I get back I will see how to solve the problem.”
Cairo, the oldest film fest in the Middle East and Africa, has been in turmoil since the January 2011 Tahrir Square uprising.
Last year’s edition of the fest, which would have been its 35th, was scrapped after the board decided to regroup with the country in political post-revolutionary transition. The ministry subsequently decided to launch a competitive bidding process to appoint an outside entity to run the fest.
In September 2011 the ministry gave the mandate to Rizkallah, a respected film critic, who is head of the Egyptian Cinema Assn., after he submitted the only bid.
Legal squabbled ensued that have now led to Rizkallah’s ouster, with the ministry now deciding it wants the same type of direct oversight over the fest it had in the days of dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Rizkallah has vowed to fight the ministry’s decision, claiming to have a valid legal case against it, as well as strong local media support.
The 35th edition of Cairo is scheduled to run Nov. 27-Dec. 6.