Cairo Festival Director Amir Ramses on Competing With Rival Arab Fests

Egyptian filmmaker Amir Ramses is not any stranger to the Cairo Intl. Movie Competition. The director’s characteristic debut, “Finish of the World,” bowed on the prestigious Arab fest in 2005, and he returned 15 years later with “The Curfew,” bookending a chapter of his profession wherein the prolific filmmaker garnered worldwide acclaim.

However for the Cairo-born Ramses, who was appointed pageant director earlier this 12 months, the homecoming is a return to his roots in additional methods than one. It was on the long-running pageant that Ramses “was launched to the numerous worlds of cinema,” and accepting the place of pageant chief “was a method to give again and pay my respect to an establishment that made me the filmmaker I’m in the present day,” the director advised Selection.

It’s a transition 12 months for the Cairo Movie Competition, which runs from Nov. 13 – 22. Ramses was appointed simply weeks after Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy stepped down as pageant president, after a four-year tenure wherein he helped to revamp the main Arab occasion, whereas incoming business head Reem Allam will take the reins of the Cairo Trade Days platform.

Ramses served as inventive director of Egypt’s El Gouna Movie Competition from 2017 to 2021, a interval wherein he helped land the glitzy Pink Sea resort on the world cinema map. “The rationale why I used to be dropped at Cairo within the first place is as a result of I got here from Gouna, and I managed to get the sort of lineup that we dropped at Gouna from the primary version. Managing to start out a pageant the place you could have in your competitors the Golden Palm from Cannes, winners from Locarno, from Karlovy Fluctuate,” he mentioned.

“That was my first goal, to have the ability to show that this expertise is repeatable. My important concern was recreating my Gouna expertise as a creative director, recreating the flexibility to make Cairo as essential in its movie lineup as it’s in its business part.”

Ramses’ characteristic “The Curfew” premiered on the Cairo Intl. Movie Competition in 2020.
Courtesy of Pink Star Movies

It was Hefzy who launched Cairo Trade Days 5 years in the past, shortly constructing it into one of many main business occasions within the Arab movie world. But regardless of its success, Ramses nonetheless noticed a chance this 12 months to offer the platform an “improve.”

“It has been doing nice, it has been taking nice steps. However after 5 years, when you don’t change, you’re getting smaller,” he mentioned. “I needed to construct on the success that occurred in years earlier than and take issues a step additional.”

One notable change has been to the pageant’s program of workshops and masterclasses, which this 12 months will concentrate on higher engagement with the Egyptian movie business. “While you do a masterclass, normally it’s open for the general public, media, cinephiles,” mentioned Ramses. “That makes superb masterclasses, however the truth that they’re open to a common viewers makes them a bit generic. You must be on the extent of every one of many viewers.” This 12 months the pageant needed to take “the following step,” he mentioned, by providing sensible instruments for Egyptian filmmakers.

To that finish, Cairo is internet hosting a 10-day workshop led by iconic director Béla Tarr wherein he’ll provide one-on-one mentoring to younger filmmakers, who will use the course to develop and shoot a scene primarily based on a theme proposed by the Hungarian display legend. “That sort of interplay between Béla Tarr and Egyptian filmmakers on an expert stage, and never simply in a masterclass: That is the sort of expertise I needed to deliver to the business part,” mentioned Ramses. “Creating prolonged workshops with large names from the business.”

The Cairo Movie Competition hosts its forty fourth version amid a crowded fall calendar of Arab fests, working parallel to Marrakech (Nov. 11 – 19) and forward of Saudi Arabia’s Pink Sea Movie Competition, which takes place Dec. 1 – 10. El Gouna, which beforehand occupied a late-October slot, cancelled its 2022 version. Its future is unsure.

Ramses however sees the area’s main occasions much less as rivals than collaborators, working towards a standard aim of nurturing and rising the Arab movie business. “We’re speaking on a weekly foundation about the place we’re, how we will assist one another,” he mentioned. “It’s not about taking the lead. You may’t construct the area on one sturdy pageant. We complement one another.”

Jockeying for regional premieres goes hand in hand with every pageant’s efforts to draw each native audiences and Hollywood stars — Cairo, for its half, landed the Center East premiere of Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” for its opening evening, although the director gained’t be in attendance — however Ramses mentioned he’d wish to see higher collaboration on the business aspect.

“I believe larger cooperation is required on the extent of the funding platforms,” he mentioned. “That is the half the place it will get actually aggressive. The entire concept that in case your movie…is at [Marrakech’s Atlas Workshops], it’s not going to [Cairo Film Connection]. That is one thing that actually wants to vary.

“Movies within the area want this collaboration. I don’t suppose that these platforms have been constructed simply to get the premiere of a movie. I’m not serving to a movie with my platform simply to push it to have its premiere at my pageant,” he continued. “Let’s assist the filmmaker end his movie after which see. If he desires to come back to Cairo, Cairo is welcoming. If he desires to go to a different pageant, that’s his name. Possibly a bit of coordination on the stage of the business growth platform may assist the filmmakers from the area.”

Maryam Touzani’s “The Blue Caftan” gained the FIPRESCI prize at this 12 months’s Cannes Movie Competition.

The veteran director is however bullish on the present state of Arab cinema, after a 12 months wherein Moroccan director-writer Maryam Touzani gained the FIPRESCI prize in Cannes for “The Blue Caftan,” Sally El Hosaini’s “The Swimmers” opened the Toronto Movie Competition, and 6 options from first- and second-time Arab administrators premiered within the official sections at Venice.

“On so many ranges, the previous few years, the scene has completely modified,” Ramses mentioned, evaluating it to an period wherein Arab filmmakers of his technology competed for scant sources and infrequently needed to curry the favor of a choose few business gatekeepers. Worldwide co-productions, he careworn, “aren’t a lot of a locked door anymore.”

“Impartial filmmakers are managing to go to the platforms on their very own, to get growth funds for his or her movies, to fulfill producers,” he mentioned. “I believe the truth that the idea of making a movie that can get worldwide acclaim, pushing it by way of growth platforms, business conferences, and even pitching it to worldwide distributors and producers — it’s not a secret recreation anymore. Nearly everybody is aware of how you can do it, and proficient filmmakers now are a lot luckier at having the means to get to the opposite aspect of the Mediterranean” — that’s, to crack the all-important European market.

“The system has modified. It turned extra open,” he added. “And Arab festivals have been part of that.”