Egypt revolt film at Cannes stirs anger at home

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A film about the Egyptian revolution to be shown at the Cannes festival has stirred anger at home for being partly filmed by directors perceived as having propped up Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The film, "18 Days", covers the bloody events that led up to Mubarak's fall in February after more than 30 years in power and is to be shown by Pacha Pictures on a special festival day honouring Egypt on May 18.

Two of the 10 directors involved in the shorts compilation, Marwan Hamed and Sherif Arafa, are accused of having made adverts for Mubarak's National Democratic Party, and an online petition is demanding they not to go to Cannes.

Egypt's ambassador to France, Nasser Kamel, has also decided not to attend the event, citing other engagements, after he was accused of having backed a violent police crackdown on the popular revolt that began on January 25.

But at Cannes itself, Egyptian film star Khaled Abol Naga -- who is a shareholder in Pacha Pictures and was also a demonstrator in Cairo's protest epicentre of Tahrir Square -- says the mood should be for reconciliation.

"I'm aware of the controversy. I understand it completely and I signed the petition," he told AFP. "But that doesn't mean we don't attend. I'm totally against blacklists or whitelists."

The Cannes festival hopes to make the honouring of a country a tradition each year, and a spokeswoman refused to be drawn into the controversy.

"It's not up to the festival to decide who's part of the Egyptian revolution," she said.

While the revolt achieved its aim of toppling Mubarak, the military retains its absolute and unelected power in Egypt. Many key figures of the former regime are in the dock, but others face trial by public opinion.

Some show-business personalities are being targeted in Egypt for having spoken out against the protests as they raged and for having defended the regime. Many say they are ready to turn the page and call for reconciliation, provided they apologise.

"Of course some apologies from some actors have to happen, because some actors went really extreme," said Abol Naga. "Take Samah Anwar, she does talk shows and radios, she basically asked for Tahrir Square to be burned.

"It's probably a figure of speech, she didn't mean it literally, but it hurt a lot of people in Tahrir Square, I was one of them.

"But Egyptians are very kind, they'll totally forget and go to movies and love the actors no matter what."

Abol Naga's partner at Pacha Pictures, Frenchman Frederic Sichler, is more forthright about the value of his company's film, which has not yet been seen in public.

"Pacha is a professional company, we're not involved in politics. Do I think that in those films some of the best talents from Egypt are there? Yes," said Sichler, who has been in the entertainment industry for decades.

"It's a very simple statement, the rest is bullshit."

"There is no controversy. Did (Nikita) Mikhalkov work under the Soviet system and work after? Of course, and he's one of the greatest film-makers," said Sichler, who lived in Cairo for three years ahead of the revolution.

"Unless you can show me a film directed by one of the guys who has participated in '18 Days' who has shown something in his films which is really shocking from a moral point of view, which is not the case, we are not in a position to judge anything."

© 2011 AFP

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