Egyptian Producer Hefzy Back in Cannes With Film, New Job

It’s going to be a busy Cannes for Egyptian producer Mohammed Hefzy, who recently became Cairo Film Festival president.

He’s on the Croisette as co-producer of “Yomeddine,” Egypt’s first feature in competition in six years, and also as the man tasked with relaunching one of the oldest and most important festivals in the Arab world.

In March Hefzy was called into the office of Egypt’s Culture Minister Ines Abdel-Dayem, a former Cairo Opera House chairwoman appointed in January. She asked him to take charge of the Cairo fest. That event has been losing international luster. He accepted the next day, becoming, at age 43, the youngest president in the event’s 40-edition history, and the first chosen from within the country’s film industry ranks.

“It’s a big responsibility… there is a lot that needs to be improved,” Hefzy says. His top priority is to develop the Cairo fest’s film market, a task more crucial than ever since the Dubai Intl. Film Festival, which was the region’s only real movie market, suddenly shuttered in April, at least as an annual event.

Prior to “Yomeddine,” which Hefzy boarded at an advanced stage, his Film Clinic shingle has shepherded a steady output of well-received, often edgy, Egyptian titles that have circulated internationally, such as Mohamed Diab’s thriller “Clash,” set inside a police van during the country’s 2013 street protests, and “Sheikh Jackson,” about an Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist cleric with a secret passion for the music of Michael Jackson. It was directed by Amr Salama.

The Cairo fest job, even though Hefzy is not artistic director or chief programmer, is going to prevent him “from being a full-on producer,” at least for a while, he says.

It means Hefzy will have to do “less producing and more co-producing and distribution … getting involved in projects that I like as a co-producer,” rather than from the outset, as was the case with “Yomeddine.”

But even if the Film Clinic chief ends up doing less producing for a few years, due to Cairo fest obligations, he says he thinks it’s worth it.

“It’s important to the country, to the Arab industry, and to me personally … so I’m willing to make that sacrifice.”

That said, Hefzy is not going to give up his job heading a writers’ room that’s been adapting U.S. TV series “Suits” for Egyptian TV. “I don’t know how I’m going manage, but I’m going to have to find a way [to do it] because I’m committed,” he says.

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