Dozens of film-makers and critics on Monday demanded the withdrawal of Girls' Loves because its director Khalid al-Hagar made a previous film backing normalisation with Israel, said a statement in Cairo.

  

The group was critical of the 1993 film, A Barrier that Divides Us, which tells the story of an impossible love between an Egyptian man and a young Jewish woman in London.

  

The film was sharply criticised when it was shown during the meeting at the offices of the Bar Association.

 

Condemnation

  

"No Israeli film-maker could have made a film that mocks Arabs as much as this one and shows a young Jewish woman with so much passion for an Arab," said Mustafa Muharram, a former chairman of the Alexandria film festival.

  

Hagar's film was the only Egyptian entry among the 19 films in the official competition, though a total of 210 films from 45 different countries will be shown throughout the 10-day festival that began last week.

  

But Hagar last week condemned what he said was "Israel's oppressive practices against the Palestinian people."

 

"No Israeli film-maker could have made a film that mocks Arabs as much as this one and shows a young Jewish woman with so much passion for an Arab"

Mustafa Muharram,
former chairman,
Alexandria film festival

His new film is about three half-sisters who do not know each other. They meet upon the death of their father, whose will requires them to live together for a year before they can inherit his property.

  

Among the other films in the competition are two from Syria, What the Audience Wants by Abd al-Latif Abd al-Hamid and Poetic Visions by Waha al-Rahib, as well as the Tunisian film Wind Dance by Tayib al-Wahichi.

  

About a dozen other feature-length films are from Western and Asian countries.

  

The organisers have routinely barred participation by Israeli film-makers in the annual festival, despite a 1979 peace treaty between the two countries which provides for cultural cooperation.