ROME – The influential Egyptian film critic Samir Farid, who wrote dozens of books on Arab and world cinema and reviewed films for Variety out of Cairo during the 1980s, died Tuesday after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 73.
Born in the Egyptian capital, Farid studied at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts at the Academy of Arts in his hometown before starting his career as a film critic at Cairo’s state-owned newspaper Al-Gomhoreya, where he worked for 38 years.
Over time he gradually gained a reputation as an esteemed film expert that went beyond the Arab world, reviewing films out of Cairo for Variety between 1981 and 1985.
He was a regular for decades on the international fest circuit. The Berlin Film Festival in February honored him with a Berlinale Camera Award.
“With Samir Farid we have lost an important voice from the Arab world. His commitment and passion for cinema were unrivaled,” Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement, adding: “With his death I have also lost an old friend.”
Farid became a leading light in Arab cinema as a fervent supporter of worthy young filmmakers. He launched three film magazines and was instrumental in setting up Egypt’s first film festivals, founding the National Festival of Short and Documentary Films in 1970, and starting the country’s National Festival of Feature Films in 1971. He formed two Egyptian film critics’ unions.
Among Farid’s more than 60 books is his essential primer “Introduction to Cinema in the Arab World,” recently published by the Dubai Film Festival.
Farid also served on the jury at several international film fests, including Venice, Thessaloniki, and most recently in Taormina in 2010. He was honored twice as a critic by the Cannes Film Festival. He had been a member of the FIPRESCI international critics’ union since 1971.
In 2013, Farid was feted by the Dubai fest with a Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his longstanding passion for and support of Arab cinema.
In 2014, Farid was appointed artistic director of the Cairo Film Festival, the oldest film fest in the Middle East and Africa, which had fallen silent in the turmoil following the Arab Spring. Farid reconfigured the festival but resigned from the post in 2015, citing health reasons.