Mamoun will publish a video log on his experiences at the 35th Cairo International Film Festival which went ahead in late November amid disturbance and protests against the Egyptian President in Tahrir Square. Mamoun accepted his invite to sit on the International Human Rights Film competition jury despite the instability of the situation. He said, “It was absolutely the right thing to do.”
Paying tribute to the organisers of the event, he said; “Not enough praise can be heaped on the organisers from the president, Dr Ezzat Abou Aouf; vice president Mrs Suheir Abdel Kader to all the other people – there was no weak link.”
The major arts festival was almost postponed indefinitely by the Ministry of Culture because of the scale of the protests. There were last minute withdrawals of films from Egyptian and Syrian directors in protest against President Mursi’s Constitutional Declaration.
Mamoun says, “The whole schedule had to be put back one day – that’s a big deal for all the organisers but we didn’t even notice. I thought they were remarkable. Suheir was terrific, the staff at the film office were absolutely first class and the young volunteers that were looking after us – not only were they good – they were so cheerful – in spite of everything. They had to avoid sending us to places where trouble might erupt. They were on their mobiles all the time.
“Before the last night, six people were killed in front of the Presidential palace. It was terrible. And again they made the right decision – they didn’t have a closing ceremony, they made a very quick press conference and gave proper weight to the awards – but it was all done very quickly.
“I think that in the midst of chaos it is heroic to say, ‘Arts continue, cinema continues – and we will be part of it!’ I thought it was remarkable.”
Mamoun’s Movie Masterclass on Pontecorvo’s 1965 hard-hitting Neo realist masterpiece the ‘Battle of Algiers” attracted a few students but he conceded, “The young men and women who had been to see the film at the Film Institute preferred to make history and go to Tahrir Square than to hear about history and I thought they did the right thing – I would have done the same.”
Mamoun’s vlog will highlight some of the best films and directors of this important festival of free expression which remained largely ignored by the international media.