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Cairo Fest Industry Days Doubles Prize Cash, Moves Into TV

A key aspect of Mohamed Hefzy’s Cairo Film Festival reboot has been to re-introduce and reinvent its Cairo Industry Days market component comprising the Cairo Film Connection (CFC) co-production platform, which this year almost doubled its prize pot to $200,000 for 16 selected Arabic film projects.

But the mart’s major novelty this edition is its TV component. After starting last year with a TV script development workshop, being held again this year by Screen Buzz, the strand is now rising to the next level with a three-day confab hosted by the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Middle East Media Initiative (MEMI), a Hollywood mentorship program looking to boost the careers of Arabic TV writers and producers.

“We are trying to build a focus on TV, but also to reinforce the combination of both film and TV,” says Cairo Industry Days chief Aliaa Zaki, the former Dubai Film Market exec who is proving instrumental to putting Cairo, the Middle East’s film and TV industry’s historic hub, back on the map as a major driver.

The MEMI confab, marking the first of this type at a Middle East fest, will culminate with a dedicated Arabic TV series pitching day attended by top regional platforms including MBC, Vuclip, Shaheed and OSN, and also reps from Netflix, Sony, and AMC.

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On the film side, the CFC projects in development or post hail from Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia and, of course Egypt – which accounts for almost half the selection curated by Meriame Deghedi, which “is going to surprise a lot of people,” says Hefzy, who notes that “there is quality there, but it’s also very diverse and quite daring” with lots of docs.

Buyers from Wild Bunch, Pyramide Films, Films Boutique, Orange Studio, Indie Sales, Fortissimo Films, Media Luna, Bac Films and Still Moving, as well as the Middle East’s Front Row Filmed Entertainment and Moving Turtle will be among the roughly 200 industry execs making the trek.

In terms of workshops Zaki is particularly proud that U.S. org Film Independent will be running a creative production workshop led by, among others, Roadside Attractions chief Eric D’Arbeloff, providing Egyptian and Arab producers with an indie financing overview and also training to pitch their projects. European training program EAVE will run a film script development workshop held by “Elle” producer Diana Elbaum and two other prominent cohorts.

As for masterclasses, the standout this year will be an onstage conversation between Terry Gilliam and Egypt’s Amr Salama, a big Gilliam fan, who is currently directing Netflix Arabic original series “Paranormal.” Their chat will be held on Nov. 22, which also happens to be both helmers’ birthday.

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