Film fests may not be vital offshoots of the Arab Spring, yet they symbolize a region’s health. Even countries not directly participating in the Arab revolutions are being affected by tricky political currents. Cancellations, administrative shake-ups and information blackouts have become the norm in many Arab fests, with ambiguity seemingly the fall-back mode.
The most recent upheaval was in Abu Dhabi, where Peter Scarlett exited as exec director in August after members of his team were cut following Cannes in May. Though Ali Al Jabri was appointed fest head and programmers are still in place, including esteemed Arab curator Intishal Al-Timimi, a confusing wall of silence from umbrella org Twofour54 has left the industry uncertain of plans just two months before the fest unspools.
In July, the Doha Film Institute’s exec director Amanda Palmer announced her surprise departure; her replacement has yet to be named, though the fest is expanding to eight days.
Only Dubai seems immune from turbulence in the Gulf.
Meanwhile, Damascus remains shuttered for the second year, while a proposed docu fest in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, never got off the ground. Security concerns in both cases made realization impossible, also one of the reasons for cancelling last year’s Cairo’s fest. Plagued by haphazard management and the onerous influence of the Ministry of Culture, the Cairo fest, skedded for a late November start, was freshly reconstituted under a new foundation headed by respected former artistic topper Youssef Cherif Rizkallah. It’s supported by the Egyptian Film Center with only administrative assistance from the ministry, yet political infighting threatens to derail plans as of press time.
Fortunately, Luxor’s Egyptian and European Film Festival, unspooling Sept. 17-22, is on track.
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