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By Youssra el-Sharkawy

On its 25th anniversary, The Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre (CIFCET) is presenting theatre hits that were performed in past editions to celebrate the recent history of Egyptian contemporary theatre.

The festival, which started on Monday and will run until September 20, will bring various forms of theatrical performance to Egypt to enrich the culture of theatre goers as well as those working in theatre.

Around 25 performances from 35 countries, including Poland, Syria, Brazil, Tunisia and Kuwait, will present the latest developments in international theatre to Egyptian and Arab audiences. The performances will be staged at a number of different theatres in Cairo.

This year the festival will also provide a golden opportunity for young audiences to watch old masterpieces as it will highlight  20-year-old Egyptian performances.

It will, for example, host the first theatrical show  ever to receive an award,  “Altook Wal Aswera” (The Collar and the Bracelet) directed by Nasser Abdel Moneim.

It was performed in the festival’s 8th round in 1999. 

The play revolves around a poor family who live in a small village in Upper Egypt and suffer from extreme poverty. Being uneducated, they resort to superstitions and magic to improve their living conditions.

Another hit to be performed is “Qahwa Sada” (Coffee Without Sugar) directed by Khalid Galal. The play was first performed in 2008 at the Artistic Creativity Centre at the Cairo Opera House.  The play discussed issues of the time of its release-- spinsterhood, illegal migration, price hikes and other major social problems.  It ran for over three years in different towns in Egypt and in other Arab countries.

The festival will also present the controversial performance “Kalam seri” (Secret talk) which won Best Group Performance in the festival’s 2007 edition. The theatrical show is performed by three actresses and tackles women's issues, harassments and the relationship between man and woman.

The festival will also host performances that appeal to a variety of audiences. To honour the theatrical companies of countries that are at war or in turmoil, the festival will host plays that show  resistance and struggle. The Syrian performance “Hom” (Them) features the life of Syrian women who have lost their men in the war in their country. There will also be an Iraqi performance of “Ra’hat el-Harb” (The smell of war) and two other performances from Palestine.

In the past, the festival was competitive but the festival committee cancelled the competition and decided to host performances without competitions or awards. The ten-day Festival, organised by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, will also publish a book that documents all the shows and seminars held in past editions of the festival.


KEDIRI, Indonesia , August 28, 2018 (News Wires) - Every year, Indonesians from teens and grandads, to mechanics and students, gather in eastern Java to celebrate their love of the iconic Italian Vespa scooter.

For some, it’s an “extreme” kind of love, where the vehicles are customised to resemble metallic monster bikes straight out of a Hollywood dystopia.

Hundreds of enthusiasts travel to the festival in Kediri to show off their creations - ranging from restored vintage Vespas to Mad Max-style tanks fitted with fake machine guns, a dozen extra tyres, or eerie stuffed toys as hood ornaments.

To enter into competitions at the festival, every customised vehicle must have a Vespa engine and most contestants try to retain the brand’s iconic fairing - the curved front of the scooter.

But other embellishments are up to the owners and their budgets. While many can only afford scrap metal or reused material found at a junkyard, some others splash out.

Peded, a 43-year-old grandfather who has been modifying Vespas since the 1990s, says he likes his scooter to “tell a story”.

“I love decorating Vespas to the extreme, but I don’t like using trash,” said Peded, whose Vespa sports massive buffalo horns from the Toraja tribal land on Sulawesi island.

The three-day festival, now in its third year, is one of several held across the country. Highlights include a contest to pick the best-looking entry and dirt-track races for the speedier bikes.

The enthusiasts attract glances and smiles from locals because of the designs of their elaborate Vespas.

As the vehicles are often unlicensed, many travel at night to avoid traffic police. Mechanical problems arise, with some of the more ramshackle machines often breaking down.

Mostly, the gatherings are about catching up with fellow Vespa-lovers and having fun.

“We are independent, but we gather like a community,” said Julia Ningsih, 19.

“Extreme Vespa guys, we stick together. If we have trouble on the road, they will wait and help us out until we can ride again,” she added.

NEW YORK, August 7, 2018 (News Wires) - Pop legend Janet Jackson and fast-rising rapper Cardi B will headline the Global Citizen festival in New York to rally support for preserving international aid to eradicate extreme poverty.

The critically acclaimed experimentalist Janelle Monae, R&B sensation The Weeknd, activist songwriter John Legend and young pop star Shawn Mendes will also play the September 29 festival in Central Park, organisers announced on Tuesday.

Taking place each year since 2012 as world leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly, Global Citizen distributes tickets for free to supporters who pledge to take actions such as sending letters to their governments in support of development aid.

Global Citizen has gradually broadened its reach with international editions and panel discussions and is planning a major festival in Johannesburg on December 2 led by Beyonce and Jay-Z to mark the centennial of the birth of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

Hugh Evans, the CEO of Global Citizen, said that the festival was expected to draw more than 60,000 people and would also demand that world leaders fight to improve maternal health, end child marriage and reduce the use of plastics.

“It’s essential that we speak out - and continue to vote - so that our voices are heard,” he said.

Global Citizen set a goal of pressing the Group of Seven major industrialised democracies to commit $2 billion to addressing maternal health, pointing out that more than five million mothers and children die each year of preventable diseases.

Global Citizen has been pushing to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which call for an end to the world’s worst poverty by 2030.

BEIRUT, August 6, 2018 (News Wires) - Shakira and Elton John played one-off concerts in Lebanon in recent months but the summer music festivals that helped make the country a cultural lodestar for the Arab world are struggling.

In the 1960s and 1970s, jazz legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Miles Davis, and the greatest Arab singers, Um Kulthoum and Fairouz, performed at ruined Roman temples during the Baalbek festival or at pretty seaside towns.

Elite tourists from the Gulf came to watch and spend big in the country and the festivals helped bring ordinary Lebanese people together. That pre-war heyday is long gone.

“We worry that we will get to the point where we cannot go on,” said Nora Jumblatt, head of the Beiteddine Art Festival.

While this year’s festivals are putting some well known singers on stage, regional instability, Lebanon’s economic malaise and a funding crunch have hit organisers.

Years of political sclerosis have played havoc with fiscal policy, aggravating one of the world’s highest rates of public debt. As the government began tightening its belt, it cut subsidies for festivals and increased the taxes they pay.

“We call on the Lebanese government not to reduce its help, not to increase taxes,” said Nayla De Freij, chairwoman of the Baalbek International Festival.

Gradual economic decline has hit private sponsorship. And fear of the Syria war spilling over, as well as Lebanon’s growing entanglement in a power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, have kept away Gulf tourists.

But after a deal in 2016 that led to the first parliament elections for nine years in May, and as warfare in Syria has moved away from Lebanon’s borders, politicians have started to speak of recovery.

“Today we are at a crossroads in Lebanon. We are starting to move towards rebuilding infrastructure in Lebanon and at the same time its economic vision is being formed,” said caretaker economy minister Raed Khoury.

Whether that can help the festivals, or bring back Gulf tourists, is uncertain. The main winners in May’s elections were allies of the Iran-backed Hezbollah - which Gulf states see as a terrorist group and a threat to their citizens.

“What affected us is the absence of all the Arab brothers who came from their countries. We used to get a very big number and some of them used to fly in to watch one concert,” said Elham Kallab, head of the cultural board of Byblos International Festival.

The Byblos festival takes place on the ancient city’s seafront, near the old city, with its Phoenician temple, Roman theater, Crusader castle and winding souk.

“The stage, with the Mediterranean in front of it, and dozens of civilizations behind it, when we stand and look at it, we feel so much pride to be in Byblos,” said Kallab.

The stage of the Baalbek International Festival - Lebanon’s oldest having been started in 1956 - is even more spectacular, wedged between the temples of Jupiter and Bacchus, among the largest and best preserved Roman temples in the world.

But it, too, faces economic pressures. Like the other festivals, its revenue comes from ticket sales, sponsorship and government subsidy - all under pressure.

“There are challenges and we have to fight, but it’s very important that we preserve the standard of the festival,” said De Freij.

Festival organisers - and many politicians - see the events as important not only for the tourists they bring but because they portray Lebanon as a safe, stable and attractive place to visit.

“They show this open, cultural image of Lebanon to the world,” said Jumblatt, recalling the first Beiteddine festival during the civil war year of 1986 as an event that brought people together.

That festival takes place in the elegant Ottoman-era palace of Beiteddine located in the Chouf mountains, where her husband Walid Jumblatt is a major dynastic political leader.

But for all their importance to the tourism sector and even, for some people, to Lebanon’s image of itself, the festivals remain in difficulty.

“I don’t want to be pessimistic, but this year is the toughest for the festivals yet,” said Zalfa Bouez, head of the Zouk Mikael International Festival.

BEIJING, July 17, 2018 (MENA) - The fourth Arabic Arts Festival kicked off on Tuesday in Chengdu city, the capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province.

During a press conference marking the launch of the festival, an official at the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism said about 20 cultural activities will be held from July to October within the framework of the festival whose theme focuses on "communication along the Silk Road .. linking people's hearts".

The event is organised by the Chinese ministries of culture, tourism and foreign affairs in tandem with the Arab League.

A forum of Arab and Chinese culture ministers will be held within the framework of the festival in addition to a cultural and tourism forum among Chinese and Arab cities, he said.

The official added that several artistic exhibitions will be also held.

He noted that an Arab fashion show was held on the fringe of the festival's opening.

PRAGUE, July 8, 2018 (News Wires) — I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, a film by Romanian director Radu Jude, won the top prize at the Karlovy Vary film festival which ended on Saturday.

The Crystal Globe award winner tells the story of an ethnic massacre committed by the Romanian Army in 1941.

Rain Man director Barry Levinson and Shawshank Redemption star Tim Robbins also received Crystal Globes for outstanding contribution to world of cinema at the 53rd edition of the Czech festival.

Twilight star Robert Pattinson received the Festival President’s Award.

The festival in the spa town of Karlovy Vary, around 120 kilometres west of Prague, ran from June 29 to July 7 and attracted 140,135 cinemagoers, roughly the same number as in 2017.

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