×

Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, Film Critic and Artistic Director of Cairo Festival, Dies at 76

Egyptian film critic Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, who as a TV personality helped promote quality Hollywood and international movies across the Middle East and led the Cairo Film Festival for decades amid frequent political turbulence, has died. He was 76.

His death was announced by the Cairo Film Festival. The cause of death was related to a kidney ailment, press reports said.

After graduating with a degree in political science from Cairo University in 1966, Rizkallah started out as a news editor at the state Egyptian Radio and TV Union, where he rapidly veered towards cinema, his real passion.

Rizkallah soon began attending major film festivals around the world, becoming a fixture on the circuit, and launched and hosted hugely popular film-review shows on Egyptian television. They included “Cinema Club” and “Oscar TV” in 1975 and 1980, respectively, and then “Telecinema” and “The Magic Lantern.” On these shows he introduced Hollywood and European stars, such as Meryl Streep and Claudia Cardinale, to Egyptian and Arab audiences. He was appointed head of Egypt’s state-run International Nile TV station in 1997.

Rizkallah also reviewed prolifically for a number of Egyptian and Arab publications, exerting great influence on generations of moviegoers and filmmakers in the Arab world.

Popular on Variety

In 1978, he became president of the Cairo Film Society and shortly thereafter artistic director of the Cairo Film Festival, a position he held uninterruptedly until 2011. He was ousted in the wake of the Tahrir Square uprising, part of the Arab Spring, after the government decided that it wanted more direct oversight of the event.

In 2017, Rizkallah resumed serving as artistic director of Cairo, which is the oldest film festival in the Middle East and Africa, and last year he was honored by the revamped event.

“Farewell, Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, the one who filled our hearts with love for cinema,” the Cairo festival said in a statement. “Our heartfelt condolences to his family and all film lovers in Egypt and around the Arab world.”

Rizkallah, who spoke several languages, served on the juries of the Strasbourg, Milan, Rotterdam, and Montpellier fests and was bestowed with France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres honor.

He is survived by his wife, Mervat el-Ebiary, and their two sons, Ahmed and Karim.

More Film

  • The Case

    Bac Films Closes Deals on Psychological Thriller 'The Case'

    Bac Films has closed several deals on Bernard Stora’s “The Case,” a psychological thriller set in the South of France starring Niels Arestrup (“At Eternity’s Gate,” “A Prophet”). The film had its market premiere at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris, a five-day showcase of French movies wrapping on Jan. 20. Arestrup stars [...]

  • #iamhere

    Gaumont Clinches Deals on French-Korean Romcom '#iamhere' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Gaumont has clinched a raft of deals on Eric Lartigau’s Korea-set romantic comedy #iamhere which had its market premiere at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French cinema in Paris. Headlined by Alain Chabat (“Valerian”) and Bae Doona (“Sense8”), the film was penned by Lartigau and Thomas Bidegain (“Sisters Brothers”). Chabat stars as a prominent French chef [...]

  • Mike (WILL SMITH), Marcus (MARTIN LAWRENCE)

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Towers Over 'Dolittle,' '1917'

    Universal’s “Dolittle” and “1917” found out what “Bad Boys” will do when they come for you at the box office. Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” the third entry in the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led series, beat expectations and towered over the competition during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. “Bad Boys for Life” earned [...]

  • Charlize Theron31st Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    Charlize Theron Says Megyn Kelly's 'Bombshell' Reaction Video Was 'Really Validating'

    Charlize Theron says it was “really emotional” to watch Megyn Kelly’s half-hour response video to “Bombshell,” the Oscar-nominated feature film that depicts the sexual harassment Kelly (as played by Theron) and several other women experienced from Fox News founder Roger Ailes. The video, which Kelly posted to her YouTube Channel on Jan. 9, shows Kelly, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    '1917,' 'Succession' Among Top PGA Award Winners

    “1917” continued its string of major awards season wins on Saturday night, earning the Producers Guild of America award for best picture. Coupled with its win for best picture, drama at the Golden Globes, the WWI movie is officially the front runner for Oscar’s top prize. “It’s a film that is a tribute to all [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho, Jane Rosenthal, David

    Netflix Praised by 'The Irishman,' 'Marriage Story' Filmmakers at Producers Guild Panel

    Streaming giant Netflix received strong support from filmmakers behind “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” at the Producers Guild of America’s nominees panel on Saturday at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Jane Rosenthal, one of “The Irishman” producers, said Netflix embraced the vision that she and Martin Scorsese had for the $170 million film. [...]

  • Gabriel Harel on MyFFF ‘The Night

    Gabriel Harel Discusses Dystopic Parable ‘The Night of the Plastic Bags’

    With his first short film, the animated “Yùl and the Snake,” Gabriel Harel won Europe’s Cartoon d’Or for the continent’s best animated short film, given at the 2016 Cartoon Forum in Toulouse. Now, Harel’s awaited sophomore effort, the animated “The Night of the Plastic Bags,” competes at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, and is available on a swathe [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content