Saturday,18 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)
Saturday,18 November, 2017
Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Sweet November

Nahed Nasr watches while two of Cairo’s biggest cinematic events expand out of the capital

The Other Side of Hope

Two absorbing events await movie-goers in Cairo and nine other Egyptian governorates in November: the 10th Panorama of the European Film (PEF, 8-18 November); and the 39th Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF 21-30 November). Both affirm the power of cinema with diverse programmes, and while the PEF celebrates its coming of age the CIFF is signing a three-year protocol of cooperation with a private media company. 

In six sections — Main Narrative, Emerging Directors and Documentary Rendezvous as well as Urban Lens, Carte Blanche and Special Screenings — 55 European films from 26 countries will be seen in Port Said, Ismailia and Alexandria as well as Cairo, with additional one-off screenings in Assiut, Minya, Qena, Damietta, Mansoura and Zagazig. Opening with Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s award-winning King of the Belgians (2016), the PEF is also screening this year’s Palme d’Or winner, Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s satirical The Square, the Oscar documentary nomination I Am Not Your Negro, about the great writer James Baldwin and — in the Emerging Directors section — Georgian filmmaker Ana Urushadze’s Scary Mother, which won the best film award at Locarno, Sarajevo and El Gouna this year. Though previously announced, Tarek Saleh’s French production, The Nile Hilton Incident (2017), will not be screened “for reasons that are out of our hands”, as a PEF press release put it.


Sweet November

The Urban Lens section, established last year, focuses on a single European city, and this year mysterious London provides a selection of eerie and dark movies: Frenzy (1972) by Alfred Hitchcock, Night and the City (1950) by Jules Dassin and Sapphire (1959) by Basil Dearden. The Carte Blanche section asks three Egyptian directors to choose a European film each, and this year they are Lars Von Trier’s Breaking The Waves (1996) chosen by Kamla Abu Zekry, Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967) chosen by Ali Badrakhan and Theo Angelopoulos’s Eternity and a Day (1998) chosen by Tamer Al-Said. With a programme of restored films and archival footage, Special Screenings — in collaboration with CNC channel — pays tribute to ethnographer Jean Rouch and the Lumière brothers. The PEF also includes masterclasses, workshops and panel discussions targeting aspiring filmmakers.

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The 39th CIFF has film star Youssra as an honorary president and veteran jean premiere Hussein Fahmi heading the international competition jury, which also includes Egyptian filmmaker Khairy Beshara, Palestinian filmmaker Hani Abu Assad and Syrian actress Kinda Allouch. The Faten Hamama Honorary Award goes to Egyptian comedy superstar Samir Ghanem, while the Faten Hamama Excellence Award goes to both the Tunisian actress Hind Sabri and the Egyptian actor Maged Al-Kidwani. The festival also pays tribute to the late film critic Samir Farid with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. It also honours the late critics Ahmed Al-Hadari, Mustafa Darwish and Fawzi Suleiman, and commemorates the late Egyptian director Mohamed Kamel Al-Qalioubi, the late Lebanese director Jean Chamoun and the late French actress Jeanne Moreau.  

One of the main changes in this year’s round is that DMC TV is officially sponsoring the festival for three years starting this year. The opening and closing ceremonies will not take place at the Cairo Opera House as usual but at the Al-Manara Conference and Exhibition Centre in New Cairo. In addition to the Opera’s six theatres, major films will be screened at the American University in Cairo’s New Cairo Campus, at the Mall of Arabia theatres in 6 October City and at the downtown Cinema Odeon. The official competition as well as the official out of competition selection, Festival of Festivals, International Panorama and Panorama of Egyptian Film feature 175 films from 53 countries in total. Three competitions — the Cinema of Tomorrow short film competition, the AFAC Arab films competition and the Critics’ Week competition — are taking place alongside the international competition.

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Sweet November

At a press conference last week CIFF artistic director Youssef Cherif Rizkallah declared that, due to the current conditions of production, no Egyptian films are participating in the international competition. Egyptian cinema’s challenges are the topic of a CIFF seminar. Egyptian films do appear on the programmes of the Cinema of Tomorrow (Amrosh Badr’s Something Cold, which represented Egypt at the Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival this year) and the Panorama of Egyptian film: Amr Salama’s Sheikh Jackson, Egypt’s Oscar nomination at the 90th Academy Awards; Tamer Ashri’s Photocopy, winner of the best Arabic narrative film at El Gouna earlier this year; Mohamed Hammad’s Withered Green, winner of the best director Muhr award at the 2016 Dubai Film Festival; and Sherif Al-Bendari’s Ali the Goat and Ibrahim, winner of the best actor Muhr. 

Starring Academy Award winner Kate Winslet and Golden Globe winner Idris Elba, The Mountain Between Us by Abu Assad will have its world premiere here in Cairo — a rare honour, according to Rizkallah at the press conference. The Berlinale Glasshütte Original Documentary Award winning Ghost Hunting by Raed Andoni is another Arab highlight. Together with seven other films from Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, Morocco, and Kuwait — including A Certain Nasser, about the Lebanese cinema pioneer Georges Nasser, the first film to represent Lebanon at Cannes’s official competition — Ghost Hunting is part of the Horizons of New Arab Cinema Competition. Jean Chamoun’s In the Shadows of the City (2000) is another Lebanese feature on the programme. Tunisian filmmaker Elyes Baccar’s Tunis by Night is the only Arab film in the official competition, but two other Tunisian films — Nouri Bouzid’s 2002 Clay Dolls and Moufida Tlatli’s 1994 The Silences of the Palace — are also being screened. Saad Al-Essami’s short El-Sheikh Noel is the only Iraqi film in the festival; it is participating in the Cinema of Tomorrow competition.

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The Mountain Between Us

This year the CIFF’s guest of honour is Australia, chosen “for its novel ideas and peculiar cinematic language”. Neil Hawkins, the Australian ambassador to Egypt, was present at the press conference, where he introduced Jeffrey Walker’s Ali’s Wedding (2017), “the first Australian comedy”: “This film not only tells the story of a family with an Arab and Muslim background in Australia but is also starring Helana Sawires, who is an Australian actress with an Egyptian background.” Ten more films including George Miller’s Mad Max make up the guest of honour programme. 

To honour Jeanne Moreau, the festival is screening Tuffaut’s 1962 Jules et Jim and seven other films by French female directors made in 2012-2016. They are Celine Sciamma, Pascale Ferran, Dominique Cabrera, Emmanuelle Bercot, Noemi Lowski, Dominique Cabrera and Justine Triet. 

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