Nawara Shoukry • Cinema and distribution manager, Zawya Cinema and Distribution
“Commercially produced titles tend to fall short on the artistic front”
by Valerio Caruso
- At the Venice Film Festival, where she attended a training seminar organised by CICAE, we talked to Nawara Shoukry about film distribution in Egypt
Nawara Shoukry has worked for Egypt’s Ismailia International Film Festival as coordinator of the co-production platform, as festival manager at the Qabila Short Film Festival in Cairo and as coordinator at the Cairo Film Connection. She is now cinema and distribution manager at Zawya, and we spoke to her after she took part in a training seminar organised by CICAE at the recent Venice Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What is the current situation of the distribution sector in Egypt?
Nawara Shoukry: With an illustrious cinematic heritage, one would expect to be able to find internationally acclaimed films from all over the world in at least some movie theatres in Cairo. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Cinemas host either Hollywood blockbusters or Egyptian films – and often not even all Egyptian films. Commercially produced titles tend to fall short on the artistic front, with only a few exceptions each year. The multiplexes are performing well, but there was clearly a gap that we needed to fill.
How do you position yourself in this challenging environment?
Misr International Films (MIF), founded by Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, launched Zawya in 2014 as an initiative to bring arthouse and alternative films to one screen at the Odeon cinema in Downtown Cairo. Besides regular film screenings, Zawya also hosts talks, special events, retrospectives, film discussions and master classes. We also have a small distribution company that was founded two years ago, which only releases small Egyptian movies.
How do you attract your audience?
We have a lot of university students, film buffs and film students. We work with very low-key marketing strategies, such as social media and free platforms. We cooperate with other cultural institutes, and we also send newsletters and emails.
What are Zawya's strengths and the challenges it faces?
One of our strengths is that there is a growing audience for arthouse films. The fact that the cinema is in the city centre is also a plus. But we face a lot of challenges, one of them being the bureaucratic process involved in getting the films approved by the censorship authorities. We also work with a very small team.
Do you show European films?
Yes; one of the main events that we organise is the Panorama of European Films, and 2017 marked the tenth edition of this initiative. The festival is a real success: we get 10,000 admissions every year. We screen the biggest European films on the festival circuit.
How would you like to expand your activities?
We would like to extend our activities out of Cairo and decentralise. We are already collaborating with other cities, where we screen films once a week.
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