Cairo: A decision by Egypt’s prestigious film festival to honour veteran French director and writer Claude Lelouch has triggered an outcry among the country’s cinema industry for his alleged backing of Israel.
Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but its professional unions continue to ban links with the Israeli regime, or its backers.
Organisers of the Cairo Film Festival said this week that they will honour Lelouch next month in the 40th edition of the event. The decision prompted several Egyptian filmmakers and intellectuals to denounce the gesture, citing Lelouch’s frequent visits to Israel.
“The festival’s officials insist on honouring this director, who loves the Zionist entity [Israel] in a violation and defiance of the Federation of the Artistic Unions’ unanimous decision that rejects all forms of normalisation with the Zionist enemy,” a group of filmmakers and writers said in a statement on Thursday.
They added that the planned honouring also breaches a tradition established by the Cairo Film Festival since its creation in 1976 that bans having normal links with Israel and its loyalists.
“Claude Lelouch has long expressed pride in the Zionist entity considering it his real homeland and even joined exercises of the enemy’s army in November 1999 inside a colony,” the statement read.
“Besides, this director has never denounced or commented on the crimes perpetrated by the Zionist entity against the Arab people in Palestine. Therefore, we declare our categorical rejection of this honouring and as Egyptian citizens will not recognize it. We reject all forms of normalization or backing for anyone supporting the wanton Zionist enemy until the liberation of our Arab lands.”
Head of the festival Mohammad Hefzy shrugged off the criticism.
“Accusations that Claude is a Zionist are baseless rumours,” Hefzy said. “He has no hostile stance against Arabs or Islam.”
Hefzy defended the planned honouring of the Oscar-winning director.
“We should not consider every director or artist, who visited Israel, is a foe of Arabs,” Hefzy added in media remarks. “If we acted like this, we would remain in isolation, speaking to ourselves only.”
Lelouch, 80, is regarded as one of the pioneers of the new wave in the French cinema. His 1966 “A Man and A Woman” won the Palme d’Or Prize at Cannes and the Oscar for the best foreign language film.
The Cairo Film Festival is due to open on November 20 and runs for nine days.