×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Arab Film Community Vows to Forge Ahead Unintimidated by Charlie Hebdo Attack

The film community in the Arab world has promptly reacted with outrage and determination to plow on undeterred in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter by Islamic fundamentalists in Paris which, for many, mirrors situations they have long been contending with at home, especially in Egypt, historically the Arabic film industry’s powerhouse.

“In the [Arab] creative community, the impact of these religious terrorists is one that we’ve been suffering for years,” noted prominent Egyptian auteur Yousry Nasrallah, who has delved into the impact of fundamentalism in pics including docu “On Boys, Girls and the Veil” and his more recent post Arab Spring drama “After the Battle,” which competed at Cannes in 2012.

“There is always this kind of pressure on us from censorship and public opinion to make films that do not transgress,” he added.

But he, and other prominent Arab film industry personalities, have no intention of retreating in the face of the killings.

“I’m constantly blackmailed by people like that, and we’ve been resisting them. The thing is, we’re not going to take it. It can’t go on. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that you cannot give in on any level. You cannot allow them to dictate any kind of constraints, because that translates into violence. The more you give in, the more they will resort to violence,” Nasrallah passionately declared.

As an antidote to current pressures Nasrallah is under in Egypt due to religious issues, he is now in pre-production on a pic about cooks who work in the countryside for weddings and circumcisions. They move from one village to the next and cook for festive occasions. “It’s a film about food and pleasurable things,” he said. “I think it’s very appropriate at a time when everybody is talking about austerity and everything that is not linked to pleasure becomes glorified in the name of religion,” he added. Egyptian production company New Century is producing Nousy’s as-yet-untitled pic, with plans to start shooting in March.

One of the first things prominent Egyptian indie writer-producer Mohamed Hefzy (pictured) did when he heard about the Paris attack was reach out to Eric Lagesse of Gaul’s Pyramid Films, his French co-producer on Egyptian auteur Mohamed Diab’s drama-thriller “Clash,” which he calls “a film that tackles Islamist extremists and Islamists versus the rest of society in a nonjudgemental way.”

The reaction he got was: “Now we really need to make this film faster, and it’s more relevant,” Hefzy recounts. And “it’s not for business reasons that he and others are saying this. They feel you need to shine some light on the truth,” he said.

“Clash,” which is expected to start shooting in Cairo in March, is set entirely inside an overcrowded police truck packed with both pro and anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators. Diad is known internationally for bold sex harassment pic “Cairo 678.”

Hefzy said “Clash” will try to “come to an understanding about what is driving these people.”

Interestingly, he noted that the reaction he saw on social media in Egypt to the Paris massacre is that the solution to the problem resides within the Arab world.

“It’s s clear to me that what is going to defeat Islamic extremists is not the West, but actually the people in the Arab world who are so sick of these guys basically tarnishing the image of Islam,” Hefzy said. “It’s Muslims who need to drive these people away. They are going to make sure that they [the extremists] cannot impose their doctrine of ‘you are going to live as we say, or we will kill you.’ That is something that Muslims will not accept. It’s going to come from here. They are going to be defeated locally; I don’t think that Western armies will be the solution.”

Egyptian producer Hani Osama, a co-producer with Hefzy on Amr Salama’s recent black comedy “Excuse My French,” about a Christian kid enrolled in an Islamic public school who finds himself forced to conceal his religious identity, was similarly undeterred.

“I think our industry has gone through a lot and the people have the maturity to overcome the situation and not be intimidated by these actions,” he said.

Cairo-based Tunisian movie star Hend Sabry (“The Yacoubian Building,” “Asmaa”) expressed similar outrage and an unwillingness to give in.

“My identity has been hijacked by a bunch of loud mercenaries,” she said. “If we fear them, they win. And they shall not win. We (secular peaceful Muslims) are more a threat to them than any Charlie Hebdo [cartoons].”

“We, the Muslims and Arabs in this vast world, are the ones most affected by those barbarian terrorists,” said Jordanian producer Rula Nasser, who most recently shepherded Mais Darwazah’s well-received docu “My Love Awaits Me by the Sea,” about a second-generation Palestinian making her first trip to the homeland.

“France has excellent relations with Muslim nations, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon,” she noted. “This was the basis of an artistic collaboration in film between East and West. Now this collaboration needs to be stronger to work harder on educating and penetrating the radicals,” she said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • CJ-CGV Cinemas

    CJ CGV Sells $286 Million Stake in Asian Cinema Businesses

    CJ CGV, the Korean movie theaters giant, is to raise $286 million from the sale of a slice of its Indonesian, Vietnamese and Chinese businesses. The company, which has its own stock market listing and is affiliated to the CJ Group, which includes CJ E&M and CJ Entertainment, said this week that it had sold [...]

  • Taiwanese director Fu Yue

    China, Taiwan in Film Awards Face-off With Roosters, Horses Scheduled on Same Day

    Despite rising political antagonism, China and Taiwan have for years been able to put aside their differences for a night of shared glitz and glamour at the annual Taipei-based Golden Horse Awards, known as Asia’s Oscars. But with cross-strait relations at a nadir, that’s about to change.  Chinese-language cinema is set for a showdown the [...]

  • Julia Roberts Harriet Tubman

    Julia Roberts Was Suggested to Play Harriet Tubman, 'Harriet' Screenwriter Says

    Cynthia Erivo has received widespread acclaim for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ biopic “Harriet.” But according to the movie’s screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard, Julia Roberts — yes, white woman Julia Roberts — was once suggested by a studio executive to play the role. In a Q&A for “Harriet” studio Focus Features as [...]

  • Atlantics

    Variety Names 10 Directors to Watch for 2020

    Before film critics start summing up the present year at the movies with a deluge of Top 10 lists, Variety gazes into the medium’s future by announcing its annual 10 Directors to Watch — a lineup of filmmaking talents who’ve stood out on the recent festival circuit, or whose movies will soon be hitting screens [...]

  • Napa Valley Film Festival Winners: 'Lucky

    'Lucky Grandma' Wins Napa Valley Film Festival Narrative Feature Prize

    “Lucky Grandma,” “The Remix: Hip Hop in Fashion” and “The Nomads” were among the winners of the Napa Valley Film Festival, which ran Nov. 13-17 in various towns in the valley. The winner of the narrative feature was “Lucky Grandma,” presented by ZD Wines, which won a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley. [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    Brad Pitt's 'Ad Astra' to Blast Off in China in December

    The Brad Pitt sci-fi blockbuster “Ad Astra” is set to take off in Chinese theaters Dec. 6, more than two months after its U.S. launch. Directed, co-written and produced by James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Two Lovers”), the thriller also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. Pitt plays [...]

  • Fred Wolf to Direct 'Love 40'

    Film News Roundup: Fred Wolf to Direct Tennis Rom-Com 'Love 40'

    In today’s film news roundup, Fred Wolf is directing a romantic comedy in New York; Leah Remini, Chinoye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang receive honors; and the topless bar documentary “Red Dog” finds a home. ‘LOVE 40’ Bluewater Lane Productions has brought on Fred Wolf to co-write and direct the romantic comedy “Love 40,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content