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Movies can help fight ISIS: Karim – ‘Religion is about grace … love’

LOS ANGELES, March 24, (RTRS): Egyptian film and TV star Nelly Karim has played several groundbreaking Arab female roles, including an upper-class jewelery designer who mentors women against sexual harassment in “Cairo 678”, a recovering heroin addict in hit Ramadan TV show “Taht al-Saytara (Under Control),” and a mother fighting to protect her family amid Egypt’s post revolution insanity in Mohamed Diab’s upcoming Islamic-fundamentalism themed “Clash”. She spoke to Variety about her reaction to the Brussels attacks, and what the Arab world’s creative community can do to counter ISIS.

Question: In Cairo you’ve been contending with recurring acts of terrorism related to religion and politics for quite a while. How do you feel about this now happening in Europe?

Answer: Yes in Egypt these terrible things have been going on for a long time. But now after Paris and Brussels, it’s even more shocking. It’s like: “where are they going to strike next?” It makes you panicky and afraid and unstable. I think this is what the terrorists want. They want us to live in fear, and to be afraid of each other, and not to trust each other. But I hope and I think that they won’t succeed because the world is very big and people want to live in peace. Terrorism has no religion. These people they are evil and I don’t think they have any religion because religion is about peace, and about love, and about good things.

Q: Is terrorism impacting the film industry in Egypt?

A: Of course attacks like these impact our industry. After the revolution started in Egypt, the film industry collapsed because people weren’t going to the movies, they weren’t going to crowded places. Now it’s a bit better and we are trying to take this fear out of our hearts because we want to live and raise our kids. We want peace. We are fighting this terrorism with everything we’ve got.

Q: Do you think movies can help fight ISIS?

A: Yes, the Egyptian film industry is trying to make movies that explore issues at the root of Islamic terrorism, and also make movies that are more international. People don’t know much about our life. They only know about Pharaohs, and that was 7,000 years ago. They don’t know what’s happening in Egyptian society today. Two films I’ve acted in, “One-Zero” and “Cairo 678” do that.

Q: Can you talk to me about your role in “Clash” ?

A: “Clash” is set entirely inside an overcrowded police truck packed with pro and anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, people from all social classes. I play a mother who refuses to leave the truck without her son who has no reason to be there. My character is a normal Egyptian woman who has no religious or political affiliation. It could be a mother anywhere around the world, a strong woman protecting her son and her family. The moral is that we are all normal people who want peace and love, and most of all want to feel safe.

A day after the terror attack that shook Brussels, most movie theaters have reopened in the capital of Belgium apart from Kinepolis, the country’s biggest cinema chain.

Although the city is not on lockdown as Paris was back in November following the attacks in France, Belgium has been placed under maximum security alert. Special forces and police agents have been widely deployed across Brussels in public spaces, notably in the subway, train stations and movie theaters, as well as schools.

“While people in Brussels were advised to remain inside until 4:00 pm yesterday, such advice has not been given today,” said Jan Runge, CEO of UNIC, the European exhibitors’ body.

“Cinemas in Brussels’ city center — after voluntarily closing yesterday — have decided to open today, and events programmed for this evening have not been canceled, as opposed to those in the morning, which were canceled yesterday already”, added Runge.

Meanwhile, Kinepolis decided to remain closed again today in both Brussels and Anvers, after assessing security threats and consulting the crisis team put in place by local authorities.

Kinepolis has 27 screens in Brussels and 24 screens in Anvers. The multiplex chain was due to show “Batman vs Superman”, which opens Wednesday in Belgium.

Kinepolis’ management will be meeting this evening to decide on whether to reopen tomorrow, per the chain’s spokesperson.

Production companies in Brussels are also working as usual, although certain shoots taking place in the city have been delayed or canceled. Dany Boon’s upcoming movie, “Raid Dingue”, an action comedy about France’s anti-terrorism squad, was scheduled to shoot at Brussels airport in the coming days. The one-day filming at the airport was canceled due to the attacks, said Sylvie van Ruymbeke, production assistant at Brussels-based shingle Artemis.

The producers are now looking to relocate that airport shoot in another city. The remainder of the movie’s lensing will take place in a Brussels studio and in France. The comedy, which Pathe co-produces and sells, stars Boon as a cop working for France’s anti-gang squad whose mission is to fight violent crimes and terrorism.

Belgians, like Parisians, are determined to go about their daily business. “I think you’ll see a very resilient city, with people returning to their everyday life very quickly,” pointed out Runge.

Meanwhile, the Brussels Intl. Fantastic Film Festival, one of Europe’s key genre pic meets and the biggest upcoming industry event in Belgium, will go ahead, launching on Tuesday.

The festival has received multiple expressions of support, tweets and emails, including from past guests such as Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn, director of “Guardians of the Galaxy”, as well as messages from fellow fantastic fest executives.

“We have had a lot of support”, festival staffer Chris Orgelt told Variety. “People are coming together. There are messages of support in all kinds of languages on the sidewalks and flowers”.

He added: “Reality is more horrible than anything we could ever screen at the festival. But we have no choice but to carry on. I think the festival can be part of the healing process. A festival is a community experience bringing together people from all walks of life, and just to be together is important. Sometimes just being together is more important than the movies and all the events”.

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