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The San Francisco Film Society has selected Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab for its sixth Artist in Residence program. From October 1 – 15, the award-winning filmmaker will screen his 2011 feature debut Cairo 678, deliver an artist talk in which he will “discuss his transition from writer to director” and connect with local high school and college students.
“We are always looking for intriguing filmmakers for our Artist in Residence program, particularly those from countries whose work is underrepresented and rarely shown in the US,” SFFS director of education Joanne Parsont tells The Hollywood Reporter. “While Cairo 678 was not a brand new film, it had yet to premiere here in the Bay Area, so we knew our audiences would be eager to see it — particularly given the current political turmoil in Egypt.”
Diab, a screenwriter who branched out from the Egyptian mainstream, was introduced to the Film Society by frequent collaborator Santhosh Daniel, former program director at the Global Film Initiative. His choice to veer off a steady career trajectory and direct Cairo 678, described in THR‘s review as a “portrait of three women of varying social backgrounds rebelling against the sexual harassment endemic to that country’s culture,” fascinated Parsont.
“Diab’s decision to shift from working on blockbuster films as a screenwriter to directing his own independent film about a controversial and politically charged issue in his country was extremely compelling to us,” she says. “His intensive Internet activism during the Arab Spring and his decision to expose an issue specific to women in Egypt through his own feature filmmaking felt like incredibly powerful and courageous acts.”
Earlier this year, Diab won a Webby Award for his social media activism during the revolution in Egypt, for “embodying the spirit of the Internet and harnessing its power to bring freedom and democracy to [his] nation.”
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Parsont says the urgency of Diabs’ involvement feels even greater than when they first selected him for the residency. From the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi to the release of Hosni Mubarak, insight into Egypt’s culture will become a vital part of Diabs educational programming at the Film Society.
“For them to have the chance to hear from and speak with a working artist from a country in such turmoil about the reality on the ground there — not just the political situation but how it affects his ability to create art in that environment and the impact on freedom of expression — is so vitally important,” Parsont says.
Cairo 678 will screen at the San Francisco Film Society on Oct. 10. Diab will deliver his artist’s talk at SFFS’s FilmHouse on Oct. 14.
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