The organisers of the CairoInternational Film Festival, now in its 30th year, are launching afilm market to run alongside the main festival. It will take place in the CairoOpera House, Dec 2-7.

"We had a market a few yearsback but it stopped for various reasons. This seemed the year to bring itback," Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, the artistic director of the festival, told "We have a problem in Egypt and the Middle East - that distributors focus on American films. The main activityat the market is likely to be Arab satellite channels buying Hollywood films from agents and distributors, and Egyptian films from producers,but we're also hoping that the market gives the chance for Egyptiandistributors to buy European and other movies, and for foreign distributors tolook at local productions."

The market includes specialsections for producers and distributors from Latin America, South Asia and, "as sign ofsolidarity", from Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine.

Egypt is riding a relative high at the moment. Production stands at 35-40films, up from 15-20 films in previous years. Good News Group's The YacoubianBuilding, the most expensive Arabic-language film ever made, has sold wellworldwide. Adel Adeeb, CEO of Good News Group,confirmed that he will attend the Cairo market with a new slate of films including two currently in pre-production: Al Qaeda and Mohammed Ali, the story of 19th century ruler Mohammed AliPasha. The company will also present around 25 European films that they will be distributing domesticallyover the next year.

"The film market has come atthe right time," Adeeb said. "People are beginning toinvest in the Egyptian market again, and there's big potential - we have apopulation of 70 million, and only 600 theatres."

Rizkallah also cites the local success of first-time directorMohammed Moustafa's low-budget Awqat Faragh (Leisure Time), a drama about agroup of troubled teens, as evidence that Egyptian cinema-goers are looking forsomething more indie. "It's usually difficult to findone Egyptian film to have in competition at the festival, but this year wemight have three" Rizkallah says.

The festival has the "fullbacking" of the Minister of Culture and the organizers hope that HonoraryPresident Omar Sharif and key sponsor Naguib Sawiriss, head of Orascom Group, will help attract international stars.

The Cairo Film Festival (Nov28-Dec 8), which faces competition from the big-budget Dubai Film Festival (Dec10-17), is the only festival in the Arab world to host a market alongsidefestival screenings. It may prove popular with TV buyers, especially as somenetworks are beginning to move into co-producing Egyptian films, but theorganizers might have a harder time convincing distributors. While the quotafor prints of foreign films has increased from five two years ago to ten today,this still compares to 60-70 screens for local films. Meanwhile, the tax onadmissions, at 20%, is double that for Egyptian films. Consequently, saysDubai-based distributor Gianluca Chacra,of Front Row Films, Egypt only accounts for 5-6% of his business across theregion. "We think twice before releasing foreign films in Egypt," he said. Major distributor GulfFilm tends to buy Egyptian films directly from the producers; they aren'tplanning on sending buyers to attend the Cairo market this year.

Rizkallah says that the quota system is set to change. "Thereare discussions going on, and the situation is improving. We are hoping thatthe Ministry of Culture will be able to help distributors with the taxsituation. Sooner or later, distributors will have to have the chance to importas many prints as they want."