Samir Farid Honored With Berlinale Camera

February 15, 2017
Samir Farid Honored With Berlinale Camera


Samir Farid, the Egyptian Critic, got a special award of the Berlin International Film Festival: the "Berlinale Camera" (photo: Samir Farid, left; Berlinale Head Dieter Kosslick). The laudatory speech was delivered by critic and FIPRESCI General Secretary Klaus Eder.

Klaus Eder on Samir Farid

It's not very often that film critics are honored with a prize. Within the family of cinema, film critics are the unloved children. If something goes well, it's not their merit; if something goes wrong, it's their fault. A look at the work of Samir Farid shows, however, how essential film critics can be to life and survival of cinema.

Samir Farid, born 1943, belongs to a generation of intellectuals who understood criticism not as a judgment, thumbs up or down, but as a possibility to discover cinema, its nature, its language. It may sound old-fashioned, but his writing shows that he is in love with cinema. In the films he saw and reviewed in the 38 years as critic of the daily 'Al-Gomhoreya' – in the films he looked to in order to find his own experience and feeling of life.

This made him rather insensitive to the seduction of Hollywood entertainment. It made him very curious and sensitive for his own stories, the stories of his country and his people, Egypt, the Arab World. Among the 60 books which he published, there is a clear dominance of titles dedicated to Egyptian and Arab cinema, to Palestinian films, to the subject of cinema and politics, to intellectual leaders, such as Nagib Mahfouz and Youssef Chahine.

Samir Farid has a long history of attending major festivals. Last year he attended Cannes for the 50th time, his first Berlinale visit was in 1979, the year in which Michael Cimino's Deer Hunter caused a scandal and provoked the departure of the Eastern European delegations. When he goes to festivals, he follows the career of a few preferred filmmakers, such as Ken Loach, and always reports in detail back to his public about Egyptian and Arabic films.

According to his texts, which are available in English or French, he does not just know Arab cinema well, but also has a remarkable talent, and has the tools to analyze films and to explain them.

"A critic is a professional," he said once in Delhi, when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the CineFan Film Festival, one of the numerous prizes he won at home and abroad. "Perhaps he can provide the key to a work of art that others cannot."

His conception of cinema and his clear mind made him a sought-after partner of Egyptian filmmakers. It was him who coined the term of an "Egyptian Neo-Realism". It was him who established the theory of this school of neo-realism of the 80s, with directors such as Atef Al Tayeb, Mohamed Khan, Khairy Beshara and others.

Samir Farid is not only interested in the theory of cinema; he cares also about its history. He wrote probably the very first overview on Egyptian cinema from its beginnings, in 1973, in the French film magazine "Ecran", published by our friend Marcel Martin, an essay titled "The Six Generations of Egyptian Cinema". He published histories of Egyptian cinema. He was in charge of cinema at the "Bibliotheca Alexandrina".

His numerous activities in favor of cinema are almost unbelievable. He founded festivals, headed the Cairo Film Festival, created the associations of Arab and of Egyptian film critics, edited film magazines, did translations – and joined FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics in 1971.

Samir Farid created the memory of Egyptian and of Arab cinema, and he is its best represantative and ambassador.

Klaus Eder