Egypt's Luxor Fest Kicks Off With

First Oscar-nommed pic shot in Egypt has yet to screen there

ROME – Despite ongoing turbulence in Egypt, the Luxor Egyptian and European Festival kicked off its second edition on Sunday with the world preem of helmer Amr Salama’s potentially button-pushing black comedy “Excuse My French” and the notable absence of hot docu “The Square,” the first Egyptian-made film to be nominated for an Oscar.

“The Square,” Egyptian American helmer Jehane Noujaim’s powerful account of the 2011 Tahrir Square revolution, has yet to screen in Egypt.

“The Square” was eagerly expected to make its Egyptian bow at the Euro Film Panorama fest in Cairo in December 2013. Since then, its final edit has still not been approved by Egyptian censorship authorities after being submitted for clearance more than two months ago. 

Though the Luxor fest would not comment on Monday, the event’s organisers have been looking into the possibility of screening the Oscar-nommed docu.

It would have been a good fit at the Egyptian and European cinema showcase located amid the famous vast archeological area, packed with temples and tombs. The Luxor event is conceived as a driver to boost cinemagoing in Southern Egypt where there has been a desolating depletion of movie screens.

“Excuse My French,” the Luxor opener about a Christian kid enrolled in an Islamic public school who finds himself forced to conceal his religious identity, overcame problems with the Egyptian censorship authorities to get made.

Pic’s protag called Hany is played by 13-year-old actor Ahmed Dash, who is forced to change from private to public school after his father dies. He is mistaken for a Muslim and plays along to fit in with his new classmates, who are already mocking him for being from a privileged background. Hany’s mother is played by Syrian star Kinda Alloush.

The long-gestating pic produced by Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic shingle was blocked during shooting by censors at one point, due to its sensitive subject. “French” is Salama’s followup to potent Aids-themed drama “Asmaa.”

European titles unspooling at Luxor include Swedish helmer Gabriela Pichler’s “Eat, Sleep, Die” about a hard working Muslim girl who gets fired from her job in the Swedish sticks; French helmer Justine Triet’s “Age of Panic,” set against the backdrop of the most recent French presidential election; and Spanish helmer Neus Ballus’ “The Plague,” about five people struggling to survive a bleak existence on the outskirts of Barcelona.

The second edition of the Luxor fest, which is organised by Noon Foundation for Culture and Art, and sponsored by the Ministry of Youth, the Ministry of Tourism, Luxor Governorate and the European Commission in Cairo, was originally set to take place in September 2013, but was instead postponed due to Egypt’s unstable political situation. Somewhat similarly, the 36th edition of the much older venerable Cairo Film Festival was postponed last year to 2014.

The Luxor fest’s second edition will run through January 25.

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