With Egypt in internal turmoil, film festivals, understandably, aren’t high on the agenda: the Cairo International Film Festival’s been canceled entirely, while the Alexandria Film Festival For Mediterranean Culture’s been pushed back for a month, in part due to the curfew there and in many Egyptian cities. But there’s no plans to cancel the Alexandria International Film Festival proper, still slated to begin on September 11. “During last year’s festival, there were some demonstrations, yet the festival was noticeably successful, which is why we have no concerns for this year’s edition,” explained Mamdouh Ahmed al-Minshawi, president of the Friends Of The Alexandria Film Festival.
One film that won’t be shown is Reis Çelik’s Night Of Silence, which examines the marriage of a child bride to a man 50+ years her senior. It’s not the loaded topic that led to Night Of Silence being pulled: Tensions between Egypt and Turkey have been high, recently exacerbated by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyib Erdogan’s denouncing the “military coup,” words prompting a backlash from many Egyptians. Hence the decision to pull Night Of Silence, as explained by the festival’s communications manager Jihan Abdel Latif in an email. “We are sorry to announce that your film has been excluded from the competition and festival program because of political tension between Turkey and Egypt,” she wrote. “You and we are in a critical situation now and hope that everything become[s] better in future.”
Çelik was understandably disappointed. “States and governments may always have problems with each other, but art has always been the glue of ties between publics and it should always be,” he responded in an email. “Moreover, in such a difficult environment, art helps to soften the atmosphere.” Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, he added that the film was intended to enable “the notion of child brides to be discussed in patriarchal societies so that men can face the bitter truth,” a topic he had a feeling Egyptian society was eager to see examined in a film that could “emancipate individuals from religious and tribal pressures.” He also waded into the politics of the situation. “The government in Turkey positioned itself according to its political affinity; the festival withdrew the film from Turkey as a reaction to this position,” he noted. “This hurts me most, because I have a totally different point of view regarding the demand for democracy in Egypt.”