Cairo Int’l Film Fest head defends awarding controversial actor Abol Naga
Actor Khaled Abo el-Naga with artist Mahmoud Hemida - YOUM7

CAIRO: Samir Farid, the head of the Cairo International Film Festival, said in a Wednesday interview the festival’s awarding of best actor to Khaled Abol Naga was not a “political” choice, following comments made by Abol Naga critical of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi for which he himself received much criticism.

Farid added during his interview with Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath Wednesday that nothing external affected the festival’s award decisions. Abol Naga won the award for the Palestinian movie “Eyes of a Thief.”

A video of Abol Naga published initially by Al-Bawaba Saturday showed him saying, “If [Sisi] cannot secure the country while preserving human rights, then he does not know how to deal with his position.”

“You are not even facing an intelligent enemy. You are facing those pseudo-Islamists; they are the stupidest we have ever seen in our lives. It is bizarre, there is nothing they do that does not make people hate them. And you cannot do your job?” Abol Naga told reporters in the video, which was filmed during the Cairo International Film Festival.

A campaign launched against Abol Naga by politicians, media and social figures after his statements began soon after his comments went public.

However, a campaign supporting Abol Naga started by prominent artists and media figures wrote a statement of solidarity with him against hostile statements by regime loyalists.

“We, signers on this statement, announce our full solidarity with actor Khaled Abol Naga, and his right of expression without fear from those who see themselves as the patriotic guardians, describing anyone who disagrees with them as traitors, and even suing them in courts,” the statement read.

They added that every single Egyptian has the right preserved by law and the Constitution to express their opinion.

In his first interview after the incident with Sada Al-Balad Wednesday, Abol Naga stood by his comments, and said he didn’t care about any of the criticism against him.

He also added that these kinds of voices “want to take us back in time for ages, and to silence any speech.”

“It’s my right to say my opinion freely and honestly and even to object to something,” Abol Naga said. “I don’t think that President Sisi succeeded in securing the country; however, that doesn’t mean in any way I’m against my state’s military.”

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