Youssef Sharif Rizkallah
Youssef Sharif Rizkallah Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: Veteran Egyptian cinema critic Youssef Sharif Rizkallah, a driving force for the Cairo International Film Festival for decades, died on Friday at a hospital in the Egyptian capital, his family said. He was 76.

Days ago, Rizkallah was transferred to the hospital with a renal disorder.

A graduate of political science from Cairo University, Rizkallah initially worked as a news editor at the state Egyptian Radio and TV Union. In 1997, he was named the head of Egypt’s state-run International Nile TV station.

He showed an earlier interest in film criticism. Since the mid-1970s, Rizkallah participated in preparing and hosting TV shows on Egyptian and foreign cinema productions and actors. In 1978, he was appointed technical secretary of the Cairo International Film Festival, Egypt’s annual prestigious cinema event. In 2000, he became the festival’s technical manager.

He took the helm of the Cairo Film Society for six years from 1978.

He was also a jury member at several film festivals in Italy, France and the Netherlands.

The Cairo Film Festival, which honoured Rizkallah last year, mourned his death

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

Well-known entertainment critic Tareq Al Shenawi called Rizkallah’s death a "grave loss for the Egyptian cinema".

Rizkallah’s body will be buried later Friday in the family cemetery in the Cairo suburb of October 6, sources close to his family said.