Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy is stepping down as president of the Cairo Film Festival. During his four-year tenure, the executive helped to revamp the prominent Arab fest, which had been losing luster due to political turbulence.

The announcement was made on Tuesday by Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Enas Abdel Dayem, who said veteran Egyptian actor Hussein Fahmy will take over the fest’s presidency.

Fahmy, who is 81, has starred in more than 100 Egyptian film, TV and theater productions. A UCLA graduate with some U.S. connections, Fahmy had previously headed the Cairo fest, which is the grande dame of Arab film events, between 1998 and 2001.

“I am proud to have spent the past four years as president of Cairo International Film Festival, working with a great team of talented individuals with the aim of lifting the festival towards bigger local, regional and international recognition and for being a platform to help the careers and projects of independent filmmakers in the Arab World,” Hefzy said in a statement.

He added that it had always been his intention “to remain three years as head of the festival; but, due to the circumstances and pandemic, they ended up being four great and memorable years.”  

Hefzy managed to give the fest more international reach by forging better relations with sales agents and distributors. He also launched the fest’s industry component, the Cairo Industry Days, which was crucial to connecting the event with the international industry.

His efforts were somewhat hampered this year by the arrival on the Arab festival scene of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival, which moved into Cairo’s December calendar slot. A form of peaceful collaboration and co-existence was eventually achieved after Cairo moved to an earlier slot shortly ahead of the Red Sea event.

Nevertheless, the Arab film festival calendar is too crowded. Last year, Egypt’s El Gouna, Cairo and Saudi’s Red Sea fest all took place almost back-to-back between October and December.

Meanwhile, while contending with the Cairo fest’s issues, Hefzy managed to continue his activity as a producer churning out several movies and TV series, including the show “Paranormal” for Netflix, Mohamed Diab’s “Amira,” which launched from Venice, Hany Abu Assad’s “Huda’s Saloon,” and the Arabic adaptation of Italian hit “Perfect Strangers” which has made a major splash. He also wrote the upcoming Arabic adaptation of U.S. TV series “Suits.”