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Mervat Abou Oaf Cairo International Film Festival

AUC Central Hub for Screenings, Experiential Learning in First Official Partnership with Cairo International Film Festival

Devon Murray
November 24, 2021

Since last week, AUC Tahrir Square has been abuzz with the excitement of the 43rd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival. This year is the first official AUC-CIFF collaboration that will present students and festival goers with a central hub for screenings, workshops and other activities.

“I'm thrilled with this collaboration,” said Mervat Abou Oaf ‘88 ‘02, professor of practice in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication and AUC’s academic consultant for the festival. “It's something that we've been working for and trying to make happen for a long time.”

In her role as academic consultant, Abou Oaf is ensuring that there are plenty of learning opportunities for AUC students throughout the festival. Through her work, students from all disciplines can engage in experiential, community-based learning by taking part in daylong workshops that center around topics such as acting, script writing or music, or serving as official volunteers at the festival itself.

“Everything that they do is education,” she said. “They are being trained by experts in each field.”

The volunteer students will be responsible for organizing press releases for the festival, leading tours, interviewing celebrities and other tasks that all give students a hands-on experience and make them share the responsibility for the festival’s success. Following their participation, these students will be evaluated and given official certificates based on their contributions.

Abou Oaf is very confident in AUC’s ability to help run the festival. “We have the capacity, we have the students, we have the passion, we have the know-how,” she said. “Now, we also have the opportunity to display this.”

She also expressed her appreciation for AUC President Ahmad Dallal’s support of the partnership. “It is such a relief that [Dallal] is for this kind of liberal arts approach,” she said, commending Dallal's "enthusiasm and involvement."

CIFF is the oldest film festival in the Middle East and is given category "A" status by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. "This classification is given to only 14 film festivals worldwide," said Sara Bissada, CIFF’s deputy executive director.

The University had previously screened CIFF films during the festival at Ewart Memorial Hall in 1982, according to Bissada. This year, however, is different, as the Tahrir Square campus will play a more central role in the festival with its Tahrir Cultural Center. “This collaboration is actually very important – not only for the festival but for the students as well,” Bissada said.

Orientation for the students who will work at the festival took place last week, Bissada added. "They are very excited and interested,” she said. “They have a lot of questions, and I think that maybe next year, we are going to see them as heads of departments and leading managers in the festival.”

 “[The volunteers] are so enthusiastic,” About Oaf remarked. “They were all here on time at nine sharp on Friday. I was very impressed.”

Recruiting for volunteers was handled by AUC’s Theater and Film Club (TFC), where Abou Oaf serves as the club’s faculty adviser. While roughly 150 students applied, just 48 were accepted as volunteers and underwent extensive training, reported AUC student Salma Keshk, economics senior and TFC president. 

“We want to bring the student body closer to the industry as a whole,” Keshk explained. “We're want to build connections hope that this agreement continues.”

Salma Elshamandy, integrated marketing communication senior and TFC vice president, expressed the club’s excitement about the partnership. “We see a lot of potential from this collaboration, and I believe that we can provide a lot,” she said. “The students are very talented, proactive and energetic, and I think they are a great addition to the festival.”

Egyptian actor Tarek El Ebiary ‘12, who is the co-founder of TFC, thanked the festival organizers for their work in making this partnership come true. “I would also like to say Allah yerham Dr. Mahmoud El-Lozy, who was our first adviser for the club.” El-Lozy passed away in mid-November, a loss that has been deeply mourned by the AUC community.

El Ebiary mentioned that when he was an undergraduate at the University, he often received support from its community members. “I’m trying now, every year, to support [the students] if they need me. Inshallah, we will make AUC proud.”

CIFF begins on Friday, November 26 and runs through December 5. The festival’s theme this year is Diversity and Inclusion, and around 80 films will be screened over 10 days.