The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) announced on Tuesday that it has accepted the resignation of its Artistic Director Ahmed Shawky.
Shawky’s resignation comes in the wake of a large-scale social media and press campaign that criticised his previously published online posts that demonstrated radical views.
In a press statement, the festival did not give a reason for Shawky’s resignation. The Artistic Director position is one of the most important in the festival’s hierarchy, coming second only to the festival’s president, producer, and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy. The artistic director position is responsible for choosing, with the assistance of other programmers, the festival’s films.
Shawky was appointed to the position only last week by Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem, along with renewing Hefzy’s presidency. The announcement also mentioned the festival’s readiness for its 42nd edition, which is to take place this November, while taking necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the guests and staff.
After the appointment, social media users went online in droves, using the hashtag “#thescandalofthecairofestival”. They also reposted screenshots of previous posts by Shawky, in which he attacked the Al Ahly SC fans, one of the country’s biggest and most popular sporting clubs.
In the post, Shawky described the 72 Al Ahly fans who died at a stampede in 2012 during a match in Port Said as “carcasses”. This caused outrage among the club’s ultras group, Ultras Ahlawy (UA), leading to a vicious campaign and calls for his removal.
The UA is currently dismantled, with its members operating online, after several football groups were outlawed, minimised or had their activities halted after a government crackdown.
The football fans criticised Shawky for being a “radical” who “spreads strife”. In a statement, Shawky later apologised for the football-related posts, describing them as the usual tension between competing football fans. He asserted his professional work has nothing to do with his personal affiliations.
Social and political activists also criticised Shawky’s Facebook posts of him attacking activists and protesters, accusing him of “inciting violence and hatred,” in addition to other accusations.
They argued that someone with such radical opinions should not be appointed in a critical and important position. His previous comments attacking activists and revolutionaries as Egypt witnessed political turmoil have caused some to describe him as a “fascist.”
Shawky, who succeeded veteran film critic Youssef Cherif Rizkallah who passed away last year, has been working with both CIFF and other festivals in Egypt since 2012.
Several film critics, journalists, and programmers have come to Shawky’s defence, describing him as a successful and hardworking artistic director and critic. They added that over the years, he has managed to strengthen his relationships with international festivals and carry this experience over to the CIFF.
In the last two editions, CIFF’s popularity increased on the international scene and among a younger crowd, as the festival reported a rise in tickets sales and the participation of a younger audience.
The festival has hosted reputable films, filmmakers, critics, and guests, as well as continued its tradition of celebrating veteran Egyptian and Arab talent.
Shawky is also a consultant for other foreign festivals, and works as a script advisor and trainer with different organisations.
In a statement on Tuesday, the festival said it is still “committed to proceeding with preparations for the 42nd edition and will announce further plans within the coming weeks.”
It added that it is “continuing to uphold our principles of championing diversity, bridging cultures, encouraging dialogue, celebrating new voices, and providing a platform for film talent from around the world and contributing to the development of the local and regional film industry.”