With the country in turmoil, the Egyptian presence at Venice is small this year. The notable exception being multi-hyphenate Amr Waked, who is on the Lido wearing two hats despite what he claims is the Muslim Brotherhood’s best attempts to keep him home in Cairo.
“They sent a message to the festival organizers here saying that I am a supporter of what they claim is a bloody coup,” alleges Waked, known internationally for thesping turns in “Syriana” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” He is not only on the Horizons jury but also on the Lido as producer of “The Cat,” screening in the Venice Film Market’s Final Cut workshop.
“The Brotherhood wanted the festival to pull me from jury duty for political reasons,” Waked says, alleging, “they even sent them an image of me wearing military garb from the TV series ‘House of Saddam’ as if it were the real me. What kinds of idiots did they think the Venice people are?”
While he says he has been threatened by the Brotherhood in the past, he adds this latest burst of animosity on its part stems from the fact that, when violence erupted after the Egyptian military ousted former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Waked gave TV interviews saying that “the Muslim Brothers started the blood, not the army.”
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“Before the army intervened, there were about 16 locations in Egypt, including Cairo and Alexandria, where the Muslim Brothers came out and killed people with guns,” he alleges. “They sent their own people to get killed so they could have a body count; so that the U.S. could come and bomb us. What is this? This is stupid politics!”
Turmoil in Egypt is clearly impacting the country’s film industry in several ways, including impeding production of Ibrahim El-Batout’s “The Cat,” an action-thriller about human organ trafficking in Egypt, which Waked is producing through his Zad shingle, and in which he also stars. Footage from “The Cat” screened for potential investors Saturday.
El-Batout’s previous pic, “Winter of Discontent,” a raw and powerful look into the events that led to the Tahrir Square uprising, has just been released by Barbican in the U.K. And at the Venice market, “Winter” was sold to HBO Europe by Double Dutch Intl.
Waked says the crew was trying to shoot “Cat” finale in Giza just as Morsi followers protested the new military-backed government.
“I kept thinking: ‘We have to wait for things to calm down,’ but they did not and I have had to keep postponing the shoot.”