Monday,18 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)
Monday,18 June, 2018
Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Film power

Nahed Nasr discovers a little known aspect of the Cairo Book Fair

Film power

“Soft Power”, the slogan of the 49th Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF, 27 January-10 February) is a reference to Egypt’s cultural influence in the Arab world and beyond. And Egyptian cinema, especially in the 1950s and the 1960s, was one of the most fecund sources of Egyptian soft power. Taking into account cinema’s close connection to literature, for the first time CIBF includes a programme of screenings and seminars demonstrating the history and progress of Egyptian cinema as a bridge to the (Arab) world and a list of cinematic honourees. 


Film power

This is the first round of CIBF to include a Film Hall (dedicated to the late Youssef Chahine, who died ten years ago and whose birthday occurred two days before CIBF opening); a seminar, “Ten Years of Youssef Chahine”, will bring together directors  Samir Seif and Amir Ramsis, producer Hisham Soliman and critic Tarek Al-Shinawy. Al-Shinawy also coordinated the opening seminar, Egyptian Cinema as Soft Power, which brought together National Cinema Centre director Khaled Abdel-Gelil, filmmaker Omar Abdel-Aziz and critic Magda Maurice.


Film power

Celebrating Algeria, this year’s guest of honour at CIBF, the fair includes screenings of The Battle of Algiers (1966) by the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo (which reconstructs the events of the Algerian War of Independence in the capital of French Algeria between November 1954 and December 1957, was nominated for three Oscars and won nine awards including three from the Venice Film Festival), Djamilah (1958) by Chahine (a biopic of the female revolutionary Djamila Bouhired, one of the most important figures in the struggle for independence) and a documentary on Emir Abdelkader El Djezairi (1808-1883), who led a revolution against the French in the mid-19th century. The celebrated Algerian director Ahmed Rachedi, whose Z (1969) was nominated for an Oscar, will also give a seminar on the connection between cinema and literature in Algeria. 


Film power

This round of CIBF is dedicated to Abdel-Rahman Al-Sharqawi (1920-1987), whose novel The Land inspired an eponymous 1969 film by Chahine, one of his greatest, which was nominated for a Palme d’Or in 1970. As well as a screening of the original director’s cut, the fair features a seminar coordinated by critic Ali Abu Shadi which brings together actor Ezzat Al-Alaili, one of the film’s stars, director Magdi Ahmed Ali and critic Essam Zakaria. Other events on cinema and literature include the screening of a 2017 documentary on Egyptian poet and artist Magdy Naguib by Olfat Osman, a seminar on the novel and cinema featuring novelist Nour Abdel-Magid, screenwriter Mariam Naoom and directors Magdi Ahmed Ali and Daoud Abdel-Sayed and coordinated by critic Ahmed Shawki and a seminar on film translation featuring scholars Mustafa Riyad and Salma Mubarak and Anwar Mughith, the director of the National Centre for Translation.


Film power

To celebrate the golden jubilee of the graduation from the High Cinema Institute in 1967 of three notable directors – Aly Badrakhan, Daoud Abdel-Sayed and Khairy Bishara – Badrakhan’s Shafiqa and Metwalli (1979), Abdel-Sayed’s Land of Fear (1999) and Bishara’s The Collar and the Bracelet (1986) are being screened. To celebrate singer-actress Shadia, who passed away in November and whose birthday is on 8 February, CIBF is screening Anwar Al-Shinnawi’s rarely seen Ala Difaf Al-Nil (On the banks of the Nile, 1963), the first Egyptian-Japanese coproduction, which stars Shadia and Kamal Al-Shinnawi; a seminar on the film brings together actor and presenter Samir Sabry and Shadia’s nephew Khaled Shakir, who will share memories of his aunt with the audience. 


Film power

The events celebrating film pioneers include a screening of Mohamed Kamel Al-Kalioubi’s documentary on filmmaker Mohamed Baioumy (1894-1963), Chronicle of a Lost Time (1989). There are also screenings of important National Film Centre productions, the works of animation pioneers and High Cinema Institute graduation projects. An Egyptian-Russian coproduction by Khaled Mahran, Smile, You’re In Egypt (2017), based on the eponymous novel by Russian novelist Alina Srebriakova and with a multinational cast will have its premiere at CIBF, followed by a seminar featuring both the director and the novelist.

A seminar on independent cinema and the challenges facing young filmmakers features Khaled Abdel-Gelil, Youssef Al-Shazly, the head of programming at Zawya Art House and filmmaker Hala Lotfy, the founder of Hassala production company. Another seminar coordinated by critic Rami Abdel-Razek addresses the question of how young filmmakers can participate in film festivals; it features El Gouna Film Festival director Intishal Al-Timimi, filmmaker Amir Ramsis and critic Ahmed Shawky. 

As well as cinema, CIBF focuses on media, theatre, visual art, music, drama and foreign policy as sources of soft power. It includes a theatre and fine art galleries as well as a cinema hall for the first time. Twenty-seven countries are participating in the 49th CIBF, with a 20 percent increase in the number of publishing houses compared to last year.

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