Toronto-based documentary maker John Greyson (pictured) has been arrested in Egypt, according to multiple international reports.
Greyson, whose doc Fig Trees won a Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival, was arrested on Friday (August 16), along with Tarek Loubani, an Ontario-based emergency room doctor.
The pair were in Egypt en route to Gaza, with Greyson exploring the possibility of making a documentary on the work Loubani was to undertake. With the border crossing closed, the two men became stranded in Egypt.
Caitlin Workman, a spokesperson for the department of foreign affairs, told the Toronto Star that the government was aware of the arrests. “The embassy in Cairo is in contact with local authorities and we are prepared to provide consular assistance,” she said.
According to the CBC, Justin Podur – a professor at York University, where Greyson also teaches – informs that he has received word from the two men and that they are both okay for the time being.
The Toronto Palestine Film Festival (TPFF) today issued a notice expressing concern for the safety of the two men; Greyson is a TPFF advisory board member.
“Canadian and Egyptian authorities should be aware of Professor Greyson’s and Dr. Loubani’s dedication to humanitarian work in their fields,” the TPFF stated. “In addition to being an admired university professor and award-winning filmmaker, Professor Greyson has played an integral role in the festival as an advisor for the last five years, providing us with invaluable programming guidance and support.
“Professor Greyson has used his skill, art and reputation to spotlight human rights issues in Canada and abroad, including the plight of Palestinians.”
In addition to winning a Berlinale award in 2009, Greyson also drew attention that year when he withdrew his short documentary Covered from the Toronto International Film Festival, in protest of the festival’s inaugural City to City Spotlight being on the city of Tel Aviv.
The protest prompted considerable international debate, with a number of celebrities both supporting and criticizing Greyson’s actions.
The detainment of Greyson and Loubani comes after hundreds of people have been killed across Egypt in recent days in clashes between security forces and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.