Controversy is erupting both on the Croisette and in Egypt over a portmanteau pic about the Egyptian revolution titled “18 Days,” which was partly filmed by directors considered to have ties to deposed president Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
The pic, comprising shorts by 10 helmers, covers the bloody events that led up to Mubarak’s fall in February after more than 30 years in power.
Two of the 10 directors involved, Marwan Hamed (“The Yacoubian Building”) and Sherif Arafa, are accused of having shot TV spots in 2005 for Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. An online petition, which initiated in Egypt, is demanding they not to go to Cannes.
“18 Days,” which is produced by Pacha Pictures, is scheduled to screen on May 18 as part of a new Cannes tradition to welcome a guest country every year. This year, a large delegation of Egyptian helmers, stars and diplomats have been invited to attend a gala. But now some of the others who were invited are opting to bow out in protest.
“I’ve seen Marwan on Tahrir square. He was part of the forces that toppled Mubarak,” says Egyptian star Amr Waked (“Syriana”) who starred in Hamed’s controversial short.
Interestingly, despite acting in the short, Waked is now among those spearheading the boycott of Cannes event.
“Marwan and Arafa participated in the revolution; but they’ve never spoken to the people about them being sorry about their involvement in the campaign.”
“With all my respects, I see this event as a great political moment of attention to the Egyptian revolution; and for that I believe all of Egypt is grateful to Cannes Film Festival,” Waked said in an open letter to Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux.
“But the presence of certain artists in this event who previously hailed the old regime and have not reconciled with the people yet – — though artistically speaking their presence would be appropriate — makes it difficult for me to attend.”
Egypt’s ambassador to France, Nasser Kamel has also reportedly already bowed owed citing “other engagements.”
Fremaux could not be reached for comment.