In the beginning of 2010, Sessions Film Production (Haitham Al Khamissi & co) started the production of the documentary «Jews of Egypt» which was written and directed by filmmaker Amir Ramses. As a preparation step and as an ordinary legal action before starting the actual filming, the company submitted an authorization request along with the film scenario to the Censorship Bureau. The company got the approval on the scenario, hence the filming authorization. Accordingly, the company started the documentary production which took nearly three years to undertake the filming, editing and the other artistic operations. Finally, the documentary was completely ready in April 2012. Then, we agreed with Producer Marianne Khoury to have a first screening of the documentary in Egypt during the Fifth Panorama of the European Film organized by Misr International Films in October 2012. Producer Marianne Khoury submitted an authorization request to the censorship bureau to screen it in the Panorama. The censorship viewed the documentary and wrote its report authorizing its screening (authorization number 38/180/2012 on the 3rd of September 2012). Hence, the documentary was screened during the Panorama.
In December 2012, Sessions Film Production submitted an export request of the film to the United States of America to the Egyptian Censorship with the aim to screen it in North America during the Palm Springs International Film Festival held in California. The Censorship viewed the film for the second time and issued the export authorization to the company in the 25th December 2012.
During these events, the Minister of Culture called Producer Marianne Khoury to ask her about the film. She told him it was produced by me and directed by Amir Ramses. He then asked to meet the filmmaker. During their meeting, the Minister asked for some details and did not show any objection to the film. He also requested a copy of the film which was sent to him by the Head of the Egyptian Censorship.
In February 2012, Sessions Film Production agreed with the Arabic Company for Films Production & Distribution (Al Arabia Cinema) to screen the film in three Renaissance movie theaters at Nile City, Sun City and San Stefano starting March 13th 2013. Therefore, the company issued all the requested documents to be submitted to the Egyptian Censorship with a request to renew the screening authorization in Egypt.
Yesterday- March 11th-, I was surprised to hear from the Head of the Egyptian Censorship, Dr. Abd El Satar Fathy- while being at his office- that the Minister of Culture asked for a copy of the film. I then expressed my worries and told him that the renewal of the screening authorization should not be related to the Minister request to view it. Dr. Fathy assured me that it was only a personal matter that had no relation to the renewal of the screening authorization, he also promised me to get the renewal next day. I asserted him that we only have one day before the film screening date.
Next day, while visiting the Head of the Egyptian Censorship, he apologized to me and told me that a security authority requested to view the film before renewing its screening authorization and regardless of the previous Censorship approvals to screen it and export it. I was shocked to hear this news and shocked more to know that this procedure was carried during the 2 previous authorizations and accordingly, there were no reasons for this obstruction, in addition to the financial damages that my company will have to endure due to this suspicious action. I left the Censorship Bureau and went to the Minister of Culture Bureau to know that he is traveling abroad and will be back on Saturday 16th of March. I also tried to reach Engineer. Mohamed Abu Seada and got no result.
Accordingly, I declare in this statement the postponement of «Jews of Egypt» Documentary screening until we find a solution to this incomprehensible issue inherited long years ago within the Egyptian Security Authorities aiming to terrorize the freedom of expression and to suppress creativity.
I hold responsible the Ministry of Culture, the Supreme Council of Culture, the Egyptian Censorship Bureau, the Ministry of Interior and the National Security of all the financial and moral damages caused by this postponement.
Therefore, I will be suing them for all the damages they caused to my company and to other parties.
Haitham Al Khamissi
Cairo, March 12th 2013