Cairo Film Festival cancels award for Jewish French director

Slated honor for Claude Lelouch decried in Egypt over director’s relationship with Israel

October 22, 2018 18:28
2 minute read.
Director Claude Lelouch talks during the opening of the Lumiere 2018 Grand Lyon Film Festival

Director Claude Lelouch talks during the opening of the Lumiere 2018 Grand Lyon Film Festival. (photo credit: REUTERS/EMMANUEL FOUDROT)


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The Cairo International Film Festival reportedly reversed course this week, and is canceling its planned award for French Jewish director Claude Lelouch.

Earlier this month, CIFF announced that it would be honoring Lelouch with its Faten Hamama Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in film. But soon after the announcement, CIFF faced backlash from some Egyptians over Lelouch’s purported ties to the State of Israel.

Last Wednesday, the festival published a post on its Facebook page calling on the public to submit “any document containing a political position declared by Claude Lelouch against the Palestinians.”

The unusual note said the festival’s “senior advisory committee” was meeting to discuss the concerns “raised in the media and by some artists and intellectuals.” CIFF said any material regarding Lelouch’s political statements should be sent in by Sunday evening “for the committee to study.”

The Dubai-based Gulf News reported last week that CIFF’s original decision “triggered an outcry among the country’s cinema industry for his alleged backing of Israel.” On Saturday, the Egypt Independent newspaper reported CIFF was canceling the award for Lelouch at its upcoming festival, slated to be held November 20-29.

Neither Lelouch nor festival organizers responded to a request for comment by press time.

Lelouch, 80, was born into an Algerian Jewish family in Paris in 1937. The famous film director has said that during World War II, while being pursued by German police, he hid with his mother in a crowded cinema – which sparked his love of film. Lelouch went on to become one of France’s most famous and prolific directors, creating more than 50 films. His 1966 work Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and a Woman) won great acclaim and two Academy Awards. In 1995, he released Les Miserables, a reinterpretation of the classic, set in Nazi-occupied France, featuring French Jews and resistance fighters. That film won the 1995 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Lelouch has in fact visited Israel many times. In 2005, he was named honorary chairman of the World Jewish Film Festival in Beersheba, and received an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University.

Most recently, in 2016, he held a press conference in Tel Aviv about his 2015 film Un + Une.

“I am so happy to be in Tel Aviv, very happy to be in Israel,” Lelouch said at the press conference, according to The Jerusalem Post’s Hannah Brown. “It is far from France, but I always feel close to this country. I have been here 10 times and when I am here, I feel at home... it is a country that I love very much. I always appreciate the fact that in Israel you live with difficulty and insecurity, the past and future compete with the present... but the tension and instability make the human contact here stronger.”

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