Film aficionados are gearing up to indulge their love for the big screen with this year’s Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) selection, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9.
The opening film at the Cairo Opera House on November 30 was "Another Year" by acclaimed filmmaker Mike Leigh, a drama about an old married couple who tries to help friends and neighbors overcome unhappiness.
In its 34th year, the main theme is “Egypt in the eyes of the world cinemas” over the years. From the seductive mysteries of Pharaonic Egypt to the chaotic charm of modern Cairo, cinematographers have captured the myriad faces of this ancient land. Included in this section is the 1961 movie by Italian director Fernando Cerchio, “Nefertiti Queen of the Nile” and 2009’s “Cairo Time’” by Arab-Canadian Ruba Nadda.
Egyptians living through the contradictions of this country, oscillating between extremes of apathy and intense love, have a vastly different image. Three Egyptian films will reveal the kaleidoscopic views of directors Ahmed Abdallah, award-winning Khaled El-Hagar and Tamer Ezzat.
“El-Shouq” (Lust) by El-Hagar will participate in the International Film’s Competition. The controversial film tackles social and sexual repression, which affects girls and women in Egypt and the Arab world.
In the Arab Film’s Competition, “Microphone” by Abdallah follows a man who returns to Alexandria after several years in an attempt to win back his old love and mend his relationship with his father, but things don’t go as planned. Also chosen for the Arab Film’s Competition is Ezzat’s “El-Tariq El-Da’iri” (Ring Road), which discusses the medical corruption cases found in many hospitals, in addition to organ trafficking.
The judges for this section are Mohamed El-Adl (producer, Egypt) and its members include Fathi Abdel-Wahab (actor, Egypt), Haifa El-Mansour (director, Saudi Arabia), Bassam Kousa (actor, Syria) and Ibrahim Lotayef (writer/director, Tunis).
The International Competition has 17 competing films. Topping the list is Juanita Wilson’s debut movie “As If I Am Not There.” At the Toronto Film Festival, the film garnered much acclaim. It was said that few films this year, if not this decade, will challenge one like this movie. Described as an artistic triumph that works as a historical document, the film is based on real horrific events that happened during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, and on real life experiences that were told during the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague.
Indian actress Aparna Sen directs and stars in “An Unfinished Letter,” reportedly autobiographical, that tells the story of an aging actress hounded by the media and shabbily treated by the man in her life.
Renowned Mexican director Arturo Ripstein heads this jury, which also comprises of Hector Olivera (director, Argentina), Remy Girard (actor, Canada), Ali Badrakhan (director, Egypt), Mohamed Hefzi (screenwriter, Egypt), Andrew G. Vagna (producer, Hungary), Irrfan Khan (actor, India), Mohamed Miftah (director, Morroco), Denise Newman (actress, South Africa), Yung Jung-hee (actress, South Korea) and Meltem Cumbul (actress, Turkey).
Qasim Basir’s “Mooz-lum” is worth a watch in the International Digital Feature Film’s Competition. It portrays the issues facing black Muslims in America and challenges perceptions of African-American adherents of Islam. “Imani” vibrantly captures three vignettes of life in modern day Uganda: A child soldier returning to the parents who could not protect him, a woman fighting to get her wrongly accused sister out of jail, and a youth dance troop leader struggling to simply get through a hometown performance.
This category carries a Gold Award of $10,000 and a Silver Award of $6,000. Presiding over the winning decision is Bassek Ba Kobhio (director, Cameroon), George Papalios (president, Greek Film Center), Agnes Kocsis (director, Hungary), Celina Jaitley (actress, India), Najwa Najar (writer/director, Palestine), Nelly Karim (actress, Egypt) and Saadet Isil Aksoy (actress, Turkey).
Other festival selections are the Official Selection out of Competition section, which will screen eight films, and Special Spotlight on Turkish Cinema featuring seven films. The Festival of Festivals will show over 60 films. There’s also a section paying tribute to pan-African cinema and television with screenings of seven films.
Only two Hollywood A-listers will attend this year’s CIFF: Academy award winners Juliette Binoche and Richard Gere.
Egyptian actor Khaled Abdallah, who played a superb role in “The Kite Runner,” will be honored as an expatriate who has excelled internationally. Tribute films will be screened for Abdallah and Binoche, leading Korean actress Yun Jung Hee, Fouad Said (Inventor of Cinemobile) and producer/director Milad Bessada.
CIFF films will be screened at Cairo Opera House, Galaxy Cinema and City Stars.
For more information, visit, www.cairofilmfest.org.
French star Juliet Binoche will be honored at the 34th CIFF. (Photo by Bassam Al-Zoghby/CIFF)