Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Bookish screens

Nahed Nasr highlights the film programme at the Cairo Book Fair


In its golden jubilee round the Cairo International Book Fair (23 January-5 February) has a rich film programme celebrating both recent achievements and influential film industry figures of the past. Screenings, master classes and seminars with filmmakers make for an exciting combination. 

According to film critic Rami Abdel-Razek, the programme curator, the aim is to add another cultural dimension to the fair: “It is not only about books or movies, but also how successful and influential artists could be a source of inspiration to the audience, and add to their knowledge and experience.” In the master classes, major figures — actors Salwa Khattab, Hanan Metawei, Samir Sabri, Fathi Abdel-Wahab, Sabri Fawaz, Amr Abdel-Gelil, director and cinematographer Said Shimi — discuss not only the craft but also “how they became what they are, what challenges they faced and overcame”. 

Bookish screens

Deepening audience awareness of the reality of the film industry was another aim of the programme: “Filmmaking is not only about glamour and celebrities. What lies behind the scenes? What are the different components that come together to create what we see on the screen? Our guests are not only actors and actress but also cinematographers, composers and directors. It is important to shed light on the details of the industry.” 

The screening programme too is informed by the urge to introduce the audience to a variety of cinematic styles and narrative approaches: “I don’t believe cinema should always be a response to what is called ‘audience demand’. It should also create its own demand, building up a different culture. The audience should meet filmmakers halfway, questioning their perceptions and experimenting with new horizons”. Art house rather than commercial features predominate. “All the films have already been screened in film festivals and art house cinemas, some were screened in the big cinemas. But none are mainstream.” 

Bookish screens

They include Abu Bakr Shawky’s Yomeddine (2018), Egypt’s foreign Oscar nomination, which won the François Chalais Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Hala Elkoussy’s Cactus Flower (2017), which won the Muhr Award for best actress at the 14th Dubai Film Festival, Tamer Ashri’s Photocopy (2017), which won the Best Arab Feature Film Award at El Gouna Film Festival as well as four documentaries: The Past Will Return (2014) by Dina Hamza, A Present From The Past (2015) by Kawthar Younis, Um Ghayeb: Mother of the Unborn (2014) by Nadine Salib and Kilo 64 (2018) by Amir Al-Shennawi. 

Seminars following screenings bring the audience together with filmmakers: “It is also an opportunity for the filmmakers themseves to meet a wider audience who not typical at art house cinemas. This is very important for the film industry. It is a long and mutual exchange of experiences that could take art forward by freeing it of both filmmakers’ assumptions about audience needs and audience expectations of filmmakers. Events such as the Cairo International book fair are an ideal opportunity to make that happen.” 

The film programme is also honouring three multiple award-winning and widely appreciated cinematic figures, who will receive the fair’s Golden Jubilee award: screenwriter Wahid Hamed, composer Rageh Dawoud and actress Laila Elwi. Each will meet with the audience for a two-hour open discussion. 

Bookish screens

“Cinematic culture is what matters most in a book fair film programme,” Abdel-Razek says, wishing he could screen more films and invite more filmmakers: “I wish I could work more on linking audience with filmmakers on such a rare opportunity. But this is all the administrative and financial constraints allow.” All the invitees participating are doing it free of charge. “The film programme in seen as an additional item, what is needed is a different way of thinking that recognises that culture does not depend on one source alone, a book fair just might be the perfect cinematic forum for the audience.”

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