The 43rd edition of Cairo International Film Festival set attendance records, selling more than 40,000 tickets to screenings and other events over its 10-day run.
This represents “a public celebration of cinema,” the film critic Khaled Mahmoud told Al-Fanar Media. “The public turnout, of different ages, for films and seminars this year, is one of the most prominent features of this edition. Fans are thirsty for serious cinema with artistic quality.”
The festival ran from November 26 to December 5 at the Cairo Opera House complex. While the festival drew internationally acclaimed filmmakers, Mahmoud believes that it did not enjoy the “expected glamor and glow” of previous years. This is due, according to his opinion, to “big challenges, perhaps the most prominent of which is keeping pace with the momentum of successive festivals.”
“The festival is experiencing challenges of competition from other Arab festivals in recent years: competition on the selection of films, premieres, and other related programs,” he said. However, he added: “This is a positive aspect that supports film industry and satisfies fans of art.”
A Success, Despite Covid-19 Pressures
Despite that, Mahmoud considers that holding the festival on time was “a great step, in light of pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which still casts a shadow over artistic performances and events worldwide.”
Emir Kusturica, the prominent Serbian director, chaired the jury for the international competition section of this year’s festival. Kusturica, whose honors include twice winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, also spoke at one of the festival’s seminars.
The festival also honored the Indian composer A.R. Rahman, whose film scores have won several awards, including two Oscars.
The events included the screening of more than 100 films, from more than 60 countries, and presented awards in several categories.
“We always see that juries have their own view on awards,” Mahmoud said. “Critics may agree or disagree with it, but it is certain that public audience had an opportunity to watch films that won prizes at international festivals, and this is good.”
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Fifteen films competed in the festival’s international competition section. They included the Egyptian film “Abu Saddam“, whose star, Mohamed Mamdouh, won the festival’s Best Actor award. Most of the film’s events take place inside the cab of a tractor-trailer truck, driven by the title character Abu Saddam. During his constant movement on the road, he reflects aspects of the world in which he lives and its intersections with the worlds of many characters around him. The film is directed by Nadine Khan.
Presenting Saudi Women’s Views
The “Horizons of Arab Cinema” competition featured a dozen films. They included “Becoming”, a Saudi feature that comprises five short films by five Saudi women directors: Fatima Al-Banawi, Hind Al-Fahhad, Jawaher Al-Aamri, Noor Al-Ameer, and Sara Mesfer. The film deals with topics that shed light on the lives of Saudi women.
Mahmoud said: “This Saudi film is an important experience, as it is directed by five women. Five separate, continuous short films in one film, and I think it represents an important feature in the direction of Saudi women’s cinema.”
The Lebanese films in the festival included “Fiasco”, a documentary film which participated in the “Horizons of Arab Cinema” competition and won the Salah Abu Seif Award (Special Jury Prize). The film, which was premiered in the Middle East and North Africa, is directed by Nicolas Khoury, in a Lebanese-Dutch co-production.
Another Lebanese film, “Memory Box”, also competed in the “Horizons of Arab Cinema” section and won the Saad Eldin Wahba Award for Best Film. The film, by the Lebanese directors Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, is a joint French, Lebanese, and Canadian production.
The festival’s closing ceremony showed appreciation for an older generation of artists, with surprise appearances by the actresses Lubna Abdel Aziz and Rashwan Tawfiq. “This was a clever gesture by the organizers, carrying artistic and humanitarian messages at the same time,” Mahmoud said.
The Cairo International Film Festival was launched in 1976 by the writer-critic Kamal El Mallakh to enhance the role of Egypt in the world of filmmaking and cinema and to serve as a bridge between cultures. It is one of only 15 festivals with a nonspecialised international competition that is accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations.
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