Pack of Cards
I can't wait until next Tuesday night, my sweets, when the Cairo International Film Festival's 27th round begins with a spectacular evening at the Opera House's main hall. The star-studded event will be teeming with celebrities both Egyptian and foreign.
Speaking of celebrities, the festival's president, Cherif El- Shoubashy, brought a great many stars together at the spectacular Grand Hyatt hotel by the Nile last Monday night, for a pre-festival reception. The atmosphere was lively as yours truly mingled with the likes of Abdel-Moneim Madbouli, Lebleba, Samiha Ayyoub, Ezzat El-Alaily, Mahmoud Hemeida, Hanan Turk, and Mohamed Nagati.
The stars are, of course, just as excited as I am about the ten days of international cinema that Cairenes will be able to enjoy during the festival's duration, from 7-17 October. Some 200 films from 50 countries will be screened at various cinemas around Cairo, including Metro and Cosmos downtown, the Sheraton in Dokki, and Wonderland in Nasr City.
Anti-clockwise from bottom:announcer Salma El-Shamaa and Rizkallah; Ayoub; El-Shoubashy and Turk; Abdel-Kader, critic Nematallah Hussein, and Lebleba
The festival's main event, as always, will be the international competition, which features first- ever screenings of films from France, Greece, Hungary, Spain, China, Russia, and several other nations, all aiming to win important and valuable prizes. The Egyptian entry in the competition has also just been announced -- it's Hobb Al-Banat by director Khaled El-Hagar.
The festival's international jury is headed by the famous French actor Jean-Claude Brialy, and includes such global cinematic luminaries as Chinese-American actress Bai Ling and Indonesian actress Christine Hakim. The two Egyptians on the jury are actress Nabila Ebeid, and author and Al- Ahram Hebdo editor-in-chief Mohamed Salmawy.
As I spoke with the festival's vice-president, my dear friend Soheir Abdel-Kader, and its artistic director, Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, I found my anticipation increasing by minute. Abdel-Kader and Rizkallah told me all about the different sections being presented by the festival this year, which include focuses on New Arab cinema, women directors from the Arab world, South Korean, Indian and German cinemas, and much more.
At the Armenian Embassy's beautifully designed garden in Zamalek, my dears, Armenian Ambassador in Egypt Sergey Manassarian recently celebrated Armenian National Day by cutting -- along with former Egyptian Ambassador to Armenia Bakri Rouchdi El-Hawari -- an intricately decorated cake depicting the Armenian flag. The event was crowned by the presence of Mustafa El-Fiqi, who heads the People's Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as a bevy of other social and political luminaries.
Supreme Council of Antiquities Secretary-General Zahi Hawass recently presided over a celebration honouring the latest batch of graduates from the Egyptian Museum's school of antiquities for children.
During the celebration, attended by a great many literati and archaeology types who watched a 12 minute play about Isis and Osiris, Hawass distributed awards to the children who had studied at the school over the summer. Wearing lovely Pharaonic costumes, the children also chanted The Egyptian Museum Anthem, accompanied by actress Lebleba. On the sidelines of the event, an exhibition was opened displaying clay statues that had been made by the children as well as paintings featuring their names in hieroglyphics.
Last Sunday, my sweets, the American University in Cairo honoured the memory of its late Emeritus President John Gerhart (1943-2003) at Ewart Memorial Hall. The celebration of Gerhart's life was led by new AUC president David Arnold, and included a Qur'anic recitation by Vice President for Student Affairs Farouk El-Hitami and a Bible reading by Vice President for Planning and Administration Alexander Darling. Speeches depicting Gerhart as a husband, a father and a professor were delivered by his wife Gail as well as his close friends in Egypt, including AUC alumna Marie Assaad, former Ford Foundation colleague Barbara Ibrahim, dear friend Sherif Bahaeddin and AUC provost Tim Sullivan. Gerhart was also feted by the angelic voices of the Osiris Singers, directed by Larry Catlin, who performed Mozart's Ave Verum, and the Peace and Light Arabic Music Ensemble, led by Mohamed Yaqut and featuring budding vocalist Laila Tarek Bahgat.