Saturday,25 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1434, (14 - 20 March 2019)
Saturday,25 May, 2019
Issue 1434, (14 - 20 March 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Asian windows

Nahed Nasr found Egypt’s first Asian film festival exciting


The first Sharm El-Sheikh Asian Film Festival (SAFF, 2-8 March)  — run by the Noon Foundation for Culture and Arts and dedicated to the late legendary actress Soad Hosny this year — closed on Friday. With filmmaker Magdi Ahmed Ali as president and critic Mohamed Sayed Abdelrahim as artistic director, this is the first Egyptian initiative of its kind (two previous rounds of the Sharm El Sheikh festival were not focused on Asian cinema), it brought together 85 films from 26 countries. The continent’s astounding diversity was reflected in the choice of programmes and the composition of juries, and the award winning films showcased the broadest range of opportunities and talents.

Ali believes embracing Egyptian cinema is a step in the right direction: “As Egyptians we are proud to be part of Asia. Egypt cannot forget its Asian, African or Arab roots, which connect it to the rest of the world.” For his part Abdelrahim explained that the festival’s curatorial focus was important and new productions from all across the continent, and the introduction of significant figures: “Here in Sinai, integration among Asian people can be renewed. Such integration, it is hoped, will be a prime example of the victory of love over hatred and beauty over ugliness.”

Egypt’s first Asian film festival

Headed by Chinese filmmaker Xie Fei, the narrative feature competition jury included American film critic Deborah Young, Filipino actress Sue Prado, Emirati actor-director Abdullah Al Junaibi and Egyptian actress Abeer Sabri. The awards were: the Soad Hosny Award for Best Actress (Kim Si-Ah for Lee Ji-Won’s debut Miss Beak, South Korea); the Ahmed Zaki Award for Best Actor (Huang Jingyi for Wei Zhang’s The Rib, China); the Djed Pillar for Best Screenplay (Hideki Shishido and Masaharu Take for Take’s The Gun, Japan); the Djed Pillar for Best Director (Leon Le for Song Lang, Vietnam); the Best Film Award (Jamshid Mahmoudi’s Rona, Azim’s Mother, Afghanistan); the Best Arab Film Award (Joud Said’s The War Travellers, Syria); and the Egyptian Film Critics Association’s Samir Faird Award for Best Film (also Song Lang). Special mentions went to Ildar Yagafarov’s Baigal (Tatarstan).

Headed by Egyptian cinematographer-director Mohsen Ahmed, the documentary feature competition jury included  German filmmaker Francesca Ariaza and Lebanese film critic Nadim Jarjoura. Headed by executive director of the Kazan International Festival for Muslim Cinema Milyausha Aytuganova, the animation feature competition jury also included Lebanese director  Chadi Aoun and Egyptian producer Ashraf Ahmed. The Best Documentary Award  went to Travis Beard’s Rock Kabul (Afghanistan). Seyfolah Samadian’s 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Kiarostami (Iran) received a special mention. In the animation feature competition (a first of its kind on the Egyptian festival circuit), Iranian filmmaker Ashkan Rahgozar won the Best Animation Feature Award for The Last Fiction. Of the short film competition’s 21 films, Iranian filmmaker Fatemeh Mohammadi’s  The Oblivion won the Best Short Film Award.


Filmmaker Sondos Tarek’s On My Way to the Cinema won the local student competition award. Headed by Egyptian film critic Magda Khairalla, the jury of the student competition included Egyptian actor Amr Abed and Egyptian director Marwan Omara.

Many Gulf films were chosen to spotlight the emerging industry in this part of the world: Birth by Emirati filmmaker Abdulla Hassan (in the narrative feature competition); Swan Song by Saudi filmmaker Hana Alomair; Fault by the Omani filmmakwer Abdel-Aziz Al-Hasabsi; Lollipop by Saudi filmmaker Hanaa Saleh Alfassi, Dimmed Light by Emirati filmmaker Waleed Alshehhi, Crossing by Bahraini filmmaker Salman Yousif, and Wudu by Emeriti filmmaker Ahmed Hassan Ahmed. Through the festival’s duration, a seminar with Dubai director Abdullah Aljunaibi, Kuwaiti critic Emad Al-Nouwairy and Bahraini director Bassam Al-Thawadi discussed the challenges and opportunities in Gulf cinema.

A programme of Chinese films with Xie Fie’s alck Snow (1990), and The Women from the Lake of Scented Souls (1993)marked China’s participation as guest of honour. Xie Fie, who also gave a masterclass on four generations of Chinese cinema, was among the honorees who received the Djed Pillar of Sharm El Sheikh.

Also honoured with the Gold Djed Pillar of Sharm El Sheikh were: Egyptian documentary film director Ali Al Ghazouly for his lifetime’s achievement (four of his films including his 2019 documentary The Wall were screened); Egyptian actor Tarek Labib; Egyptian actress  Hala Sedky; and Egyptian critic (and artistic director of the Cairo International Film Festival) Youssef Sherif Rizkallah.

Egyptian world premieres at the festival included: Eslam Rasmy’s The Crew (the opening film, an out-of-competition documentary); Ramez Youssef’s The Profession (an in-competition documentary); and Ahmed Adbel-Alqe’s  House of Setnakht (an in-competition narrative). Four short films also premiered: A Message to My Dad by Loai Galal, Before Blooming by Shaimaa Tolba, I have Never Been Alone by El Sayed Abdelnaby, and A Present by Moustafa Atta. Chinese and Tatar folk dances and concerts by the Azerbaijani pop star Dilara Kazimova for the opening and closing ceremonies completed the picture.

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