An Ismailia fest rep said Egyptian authorities have not commented denying Malas an entry visa from Damascus. The visa was denied despite specific pleas from Egyptian Culture Minister Mohamed Saber Arab and from the country’s filmmakers union for the well-known Syrian helmer’s travel request to be granted.
Egypt in July 2013 restricted entry of Syrians into Egypt, following reports that a large number of Syrians in Egypt were backing the Muslim Brotherhood. Still, fest organisers had been confident that Malas would be allowed entry to head the jury at Ismailia and to be honored by the fest with a special tribute.
“It’s sad that Malas can’t be with us in Ismailia,” said fest artistic director Mohamed Hefzy. “But we will still pay tribute to him.” The fest’s tribute will include his documentary short “The Dream” in which he interviewed Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon about their dreams.
Earlier this month Malas was honored with a retro at central Cairo’s newly renovated Zawya arthouse cinema where four of his politically engaged films “Dreams of the City,” “The Night,” “Passion” and “Ladder to Damascus,” unspooled.
In March Malas, who is considered Syria’s best-known filmmaker, was briefly detained for questioning in Syria en-route to the Geneva Film festival for a screening of “Ladder to Damascus,” a poetic meditation on his country’s destruction, shot in the midst of armed conflict with bombs exploding near the set. “Ladder” screened in Toronto in 2013.
Located in a port city on the west bank of the Suez Canal, the Ismailia fest is an an important incubator for cinematic renewal in the Arab world. The event is focussed on docus, the most common genre used to depict the changes underway due to political turbulence in countries such as Egypt and others in the region.
Docu “Jews of Egypt – End of a Journey” a sequel to Egyptian director Amir Ramses’ widely well-received 2012 docu “Jews of Egypt,” about one of the darkest chapters in modern Egyptian history — the Jewish exodus from Egypt — will have its world preem as the fest’s opener on June 3.
The 17th edition of the Ismailia fest will run June 3-8.