Friday, July 12, 2019

Farewell Youssef Cherif Rizkallah , Egypt’s true Cinema lover

Egypt and Egyptian cinema lost on Friday one of its unsung heroes: Famous film critic and historian Youssef Cherif Rizallah.

Late Youssef Cherif Rizallah
Late Youssef Cherif Rizallah
Rizallah worked many things since his graduation from Cairo University’s Economic and Political sciences in 1966 yet he presented himself as a film critic and he was a great one in Egypt.

The 1942-born Juiset educated started his career in Egyptian State TV news rooms especially he knew French and English fluently yet his true passion was cinema and its history.

Youssef Cherif Rizkallah who descended from a Levant-family was fond of cinema, its history, film review and criticism.

In Mid-1970, he made a Cinema history and glory when he created Cine Club TV show featuring weekly a foreign film or even a rare Egyptian masterpiece like Shady Abdel Salam’s The Mummy on Egypt's State-owned Channel One.

I do not know who was the head of the Egyptian State TV then but it was one of the greatest decisions taken.
It was worth to mention that it was that time during the Sadat Era Egypt adopted the open door policies.

All Egypt had had a fixed date since 1975 on State TV to see Oscar on Channel 2 on Thursday and Cine Club show on Saturday which he created to see the best of US and sometimes European films.

Oscar was presented by Thana Mansour and Cine Club used to be presented by Doria Shafik. Both shows included a discussion to the films especially Cine Club.

Unfortunately with the spread of satellite channels , younger generations know Lebanese TV host Raya Abi Rashad more than Rizkallah because she sits with Hollywood blockbuster stars and attends the Oscars.

Truly Satellite Channels stole his thunder especially Gulf-funded channels afforded to acquire the licenses of latest US production in time the Egyptian State TV faded away in a very sad way thanks to corruption mainly and lack of imagination and innovation.

What is really sad is that I feel that Youssef Cherif Rizkallah did not receive proper recognition for his work to spread true cinema culture in Egypt when he was alive.
I think my generation was lucky to see and watch that man’s shows because they introduced us to the true soul of Cinema worldwide. We always followed his coverage to international film festivals whether in Cannes or in Venice.

I knew through him the history of Hollywood and its stars, the McCarthyism as well as the latest Hollywood production.
I remember that I used to wait all night up late to watch his Cinema X Cinema (1994-2004) on Channel 2.
He used to have this show “Star” where he hosted on air famous American stars like Meryl Streep and Egyptian film stars. “Thanks to Voice of America for reminding us with that TV show

Aside from the TV shows, Youssef Cherif Rizkallah was one of the co-founders of Egypt’s Cairo International Film Festival and has been its “Artistic director” for 40 years.

In those 4 decades, he brought to millions of viewers in Egypt and Arab world films and film stars from all over the world with a very low budget comparing to the glitzy new Gulf film festival.

In the 40th session of Cairo International Film Festival in 2018, he was honored and I saw on Friday his speech and how he was touched to the level that he did not speak about him or his family except in the last couple of minutes.

He spoke about his team in CIFF with passion and respect.

Youssef Cherif Rizkallah died in hospital. It turned out that he suffered from some kidney disease. He was married to Mervat El-Ibiary and got two sons: Karim and Ahmed.

May Allah bless your soul Mr. Cherif Rizkallah. Thank you for loving the Cinema as true art, thank you for opening a window to that art.

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