Egypt’s Censorship Board has refused to authorize the screening of three Egyptian short films as part of art-house cinema Zawya’s first Short Film Festival, scheduled to start on Thursday at downtown Cairo’s Cinema Karim.
Zawya announced on Wednesday that the three movies that do not have permission to screen are Marwan Iman’s Prayer Time (2013), Muhammad Mustapha’s Tashkeel and Hady Bassiouny’s The Antichrist.
While they will not be screened, the three banned shorts will still compete for the four-day festival’s three prizes, Zawya’s founder and director Youssef Shazli told Mada Masr.
A total of 24 recent short films, all Egyptian, will compete for three awards, and each screening followed by a discussion session. The awards are best film (LE5,000), jury prize (LE3,000) and best director (LE2,000).
Zawya was not officially notified of the reasons of the banning, but Shazli said he had expected the three films to be censored.
The 12-minute Tashkeel focuses on mahragan music and was likely censored due to the use of obscene language in certain scenes, Shazly explained. The two other movies were probably banned due to their subject matter, he added.
“Prayer Time discusses the story of a young man who masturbates, and usually stops masturbating during the prayer times and resumes afterward,” Shazly said. “The Antichrist deals with atheism.”
He deemed the Censorship Board’s banning of movies as a “standard procedure,” and stated that the number of banned movies is very small compared to the movies that will be screened. “We prefer not to screen movies rather than to cut them,” he clarified.
Shazly also pointed out that movies screened in Zawya are not as heavily censored as other cinemas, due to the cultural nature of Zawya and its relatively small audience
Both the 4-minute comically realistic Prayer Time andThe Antichrist, a colorful and myterious 20-minute short that imagines a future Egypt in which atheism is the official religion, can be seen online.
The awards ceremony will take place on February 7, following a screening of short films by the three jury members, filmmakers Hala Khalil, Wael Mandour and Nadine Khan.
Other films in the festival include Mariam Elias and Marwa El Shazly’s Drawing on a Nude Body (2013), which investigates the status of live models at Egypt’s Helwan Faculty of Fine Arts and was previously screened at the Contemporary Image Collective.
Censorship Board head Abdel Sattar Fathi declared in February 2015 that films would no longer be censored and that the board would enforce age restrictions instead. He denied the decision a couple of days later.