If you can only see a few . don’t miss these!
CAIRO: The chilly breeze of Cairo winter is slowly creeping in. An air of excitement surrounds the region s cultural capital and art lovers are waiting abuzz for the mother of all festivals in Egypt. Yes, the 30th Cairo International Film Festival is starting next week with a new set of films from around the globe, a brand new film market and stimulating symposiums.
This year the festival offers a vast selection of films from different countries that have rarely had a real presence in the festival.
In general, the movie selection this year is less high-profiled than in previous years. There are fewer films drawn from Cannes and there are, apart from a couple of American films, less mainstream films than before. What sets this year s round apart from the last few is the eclectic selection of films dispersed among a wide variety of newly formed sections.
One of the strongest assets of this year s festival is the main international competition with 18 noteworthy contenders that include three Egyptian films. Hala Khalil s Patch Work, an intimate story about immigration and the follow-up to her critical smash Ahla Al-Awkat (The Best of Times), is the clear frontrunner among the Egyptian films, but with an original storyline and a cast of first-time actors, Emad El-Bahat s feature debut Hide and Seek might end up being the dark horse of the competition.
All eyes though will be on Candian director Jeff Renfroe s Civic Duty, starring Peter Krause and Egyptian actor Khaled Abol Naga. The film, which watches how the life of a paranoid American accountant goes haywire after an Egyptian student moves in next door, has been receiving impressive reception since its premiere at this year s Tribeca Film Festival.
The Arab film competition also looks promising this year with Saudi Arabia and Oman presenting their very first feature films. Critics will also be watching closely for The End of the Road, the highly anticipated full-length debut of Egyptian director Amir Ramsis. A critic s darling, the young filmmaker has been receiving tons of international awards for his small budgeted independent films.
The guest of honor, Latin America, is represented by a peculiar, yet intriguing, group of films. There are no classic films of the region found in this collection and it would ve been interesting to see some of the great Spanish director Luis Bunuel’s Mexican films. Film organizers chose instead to screen a coherent set of mostly dark and unsettling contemporary films that regards the past and present of the continent in a fresh, uncommon perspective. The Peru films Black Butterfly and The Trial are among the highlights and almost all of the Horizons section films are worth seeing.
As for the opening Brazilian film Two Sons of Francisco, the country s biggest film in history is the most fitting opening film the festival has shown in years now.
However, it s the official out-of-competition films that will be the main attraction for the general public. With more than 65 films screened this year, it s extremely hard to pick particular films to recommend and the beauty of the festival this year is the basic idea of discovering new great little gems that you ll most probably have no other chance to watch again. If you don t have time for this lovely exploration journey, here are the films you definitely shouldn t miss:
? Paris, Je t aime (The Paris I Love), France. A love letter to the city of love containing 18 different short stories from 18 directors from different nationalities including the French, Sylvain Chomet (Triplets of Belleville); Americans, Alexander Payne (Sideways) and Joel Coen (Fargo); the Mexicans, Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter 3); and the Germans, Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run); among others, with an impeccable cast that features Natalie Portman, Gérard Depardieu, Elijah Wood, Nick Nolte and Juliette Binoche. This is one of the most talked about films of the year and the one movie not to miss in the festival.
? Indigènes (Days of Glory), Algeria. The 2006 Cannes winner for best ensemble male cast tells the forgotten true story of the bravery of four Algerian WW II soldiers fighting the Nazis for the French army while battling racial discrimination from their fellow comrades. A likely Oscar contender for next year s best foreign film, the movie became a huge success in France and led the government to finally acknowledge the role of North African soldiers in France s victory.
? Man Push Cart, United States. This micro-budgeted Iranian/American production was the talk of the Sundance Film Festival this year. The film, inspired by The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus, tells the story of a former Pakistani rock star who ends up selling coffee on the streets of Manhattan. Eminent American critic Roger Ebert called it the best film of the festival and the movie went on to win more awards including best film at the London Film Festival.
? Berbagi suami, Indonesia. One of the most controversial Indonesian films in history, the film is a candid treatment of the widespread taboo subject of polygamy among Indonesian men. Due to the very local subject matter, the film has been shown at a limited number of film outlets throughout the world and Cairo becomes the first Middle Eastern country to see the film.
? Iberia, Spain. Renowned Spanish director Carols Saura s new musical documentary has been hailed by many critics as the filmmaker s best work since his 1995 Flamenco. The film is composed of a series of musical numbers with no commentary. The numbers vary from modern to traditional with different moods that carry at their core a unique interpretation of the Spanish spirit.
? As it is in Heaven, Sweden. Sweden s 2005 Academy Award nominee is one of the most beloved Swedish films of recent years. After suffering from a heart attack, Daniel returns to his childhood village to get involved in the church choir and transforms both his life and that of the village.