Egypt entertainment industry counts the cost of virus crisis

Sherif Mounir and Yasmine, center, were set to work in a series that has been postponed. (Social media)
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Updated 03 April 2020

Egypt entertainment industry counts the cost of virus crisis

  • The affected shows include “Light Black,” starring Lebanese singer/actress Haifaa Wahby

Egypt’s entertainment industry has been hit hard by precautionary measures taken by the government to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The makers of popular Ramadan programs have suffered the most from the production shutdown, as they were in the middle of filming shows that were due to begin in the last week of April. Work on most Egyptian series, which are popular throughout the Arab world, has now stopped and most have not announced a date for production to resume.

The affected shows include “Light Black,” starring Lebanese singer/actress Haifaa Wahby. It was initially announced that production would shift to Lebanon, only for Lebanese authorities to introduce a ban on filming. The series also features Rojina, Ahmed Fahmy, Moatasem El-Nahar, Sabry Fawaz, Omar El-Saeed, Feras Saeed and Rania Mansour. It is written by Amin Gamal and directed by Karim El-Adl.

Egyptian series “Women of Gold” was also affected by this, since most of its scenes were due to be filmed in Lebanon. It stars Nadia El-Gendy, Hala Fakher, Nabila Ebeid and Samiha Ayoub, and is directed by Wael Ehsan.

Filming of “Why Should We Love Again?” — starring Yasmine Abdel-Aziz, Sherif Mounir, Karim Fahmy and Sawsan Badr — has likewise been postponed. It is written by Amr Mahmoud Yassin and directed by Hossam Aly.

Filming of “Thread of Silk,” starring Mai Ezzeldin, was due to take place during the first 10 days of April but this has been halted. It stars Mai Ezzeldin, Mahmoud Abdel-Moghny, Youssef Othman, Hanady Mehanna, Sawsan Badr and Ahmed Khalil, and was written by Mohamed Soliman and directed by Ibrahim Fakhr.

The cast and crew of “Moon at Life’s End,” starring Bushra and directed by Tamer Hamza, have been placed on indefinite hiatus. Observers predict the show is unlikely to be released during Ramadan because filming began only recently. In addition, “El-Moez Sultana,” starring Ghada Abdel-Razek, and “Eyewitness,” starring Hassan El-Raddad, are postponed indefinitely.

“Penetration,” starring Ahmed Eid and Mai Selim, is also on hold. Much of it was due to be filmed in Saudi Arabia, but the Kingdom is limiting flights and has imposed a curfew.

Other series, including “Our Nights,” “Timon and Pumbaa,” and “Second Chance” remain in limbo with no date for production to resume.

Production of a few shows is continuing, however, including “Counter Attack,” starring Ahmed Ezz. This has reportedly led to led to arguments on the set, especially after producers increased the working day to 16 hours. The production team requested a week off, to protect them from the coronavirus, in keeping with the example set by some other Ramadan productions. Their bosses refused the request.

In an attempt to ease tensions, Ezz called on the producers to supply face masks and disinfect frequently used filming locations.

Filming is said to be complete on about 90 percent of action actor Mohamed Ramadan’s series “The Prince,” so it is likely to be broadcast during Ramadan. The producers of “The Choice,” in which Amir Karara portrays Armed Forces martyr Ahmed El-Mansy, said that filming is going well.

Government-mandated precautionary measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus meant only a handful of people could attend the funeral of renowned Egyptian comedian George Sedhom this week.

It was held in the Virgin Mary Church and in Saint Athnasios Church in Cairo, but the only mourners were his wife, a few close relatives, the head of the actors union Ashraf Zaki, and actor Hany Ramzy.

Meanwhile, former actor Rola Mahmoud has confirmed she was infected with the coronavirus during a visit to London. She is the first Egyptian actress confirmed as infected.

Egyptian rapper Marwan Pablo has announced that he is quitting the entertainment industry due to the spread of the virus. In a message to fans, posted on Instagram, he said that he will not go reverse his decision.

Many Egyptians reacted angrily to claims by singer Enas Ezzeldin that she was infected with the coronavirus, even though her test came back negative.

Egypt closed cinemas and theaters several weeks ago to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Art exhibitions have also been canceled. Reda Picasso, owner of the Picasso East Art Gallery in Cairo, said some artists are instead displaying their work online and through social media. He added that business was down by about 50 percent since the beginning of March.


Arab movies to debut at Toronto International Film Festival

Updated 03 August 2020

Arab movies to debut at Toronto International Film Festival

DUBAI: Organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) have released a new lineup of 50 movies for screening at this year’s event including a number of Arabic flicks.

Egyptian filmmaker Mayye Zayed’s “Ash Ya Captain” (“Lift Like a Girl”), an intimate journey into the life of an aspiring athlete, will premiere at the 45th edition of the festival, due to take place between Sept. 10 and 20.

Also featured will be Palestinian filmmaking twins Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s “Gaza Mon Amour,” a satire on love and desire. The brothers’ second feature film, it tells the tale of a 60-year-old fisherman who is secretly in love with a market dressmaker. As the story unfolds, the fisherman discovers an ancient Greek statue that will trouble him.

British director Ben Sharrock’s “Limbo” will see Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry star as a Syrian asylum-seeker who finds himself living on a small Scottish island.

Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry stars in British director Ben Sharrock’s “Limbo.” (Toronto International Film Festival)

Meanwhile, American director Spike Lee’s film version of David Byrne’s hit Broadway show “American Utopia” will open at the event which will be capped off by American-Indian director Mira Nair’s “A Suitable Boy.”

In addition, there will be showings of Iranian directors Manijeh Hekmat’s “Bandar Band” and Farnoosh Samadi’s “180 Degree Rule.”

Most screenings will take place virtually due to government restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s artistic director, said in a released statement: “We began this year planning for a festival much like our previous editions, but along the way we had to rethink just about everything.

“This year’s line-up reflects that tumult. The names you already know are doing brand-new things this year, and there’s a whole crop of exciting new names to discover.”

The full schedule of the festival will be released on Aug. 25.