For many Egyptians, US films are the mainstream foreign cinema. Commercial films depicting the history of the United States and the US dream are what Egyptians were raised watching. As the next US release became more and more highly anticipated by Egyptians, it did not take long before these films became a part of the Egyptian culture, as well. In the hope of breaking the mould and bringing a new type of foreign film to the Egyptian box office, Zawya organised the Ibero-American Film Week.
In cooperation with their embassies in Egypt, Zawya will screen films that reflect the societies of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
The goal of the Ibero-American Film Week is to introduce the Egyptian audience to a new perspective and to new countries through the films’ poignant cinematographic language and diverse themes. Starting on 16 March, audiences will have a full week of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.
Dólares de Arena (Sand Dollars) is one of the films to be screened during the festival. The film depicts a love story between a couple who live in the Dominican Republic and struggle to make ends meet in the beach town. When the girl meets a mature French woman who promises to take her to Europe and help her have a better life, she cannot decide whether she should follow her heart and stay with her beloved man or to leave him for a better future. The 85 minute film was produced in 2014 and stars Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas.
Paulina is another Spanish film screened at the film week. The film tells the story of a teacher who is brutally assaulted by a gang in her town. Following her recovery, she decides return to work at a suburban school, but people treat her disrespectfully and voice their disapproval. The movie was produced in 2015 and was screened at Cannes, winning the Nespresso Grand Prize and the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize.
Zawya is the first independent art-house cinema in Egypt. It was launched in March 2014 by Misr International Films to honour the legacy of renowned director Youssef Chahine. It screens an alternative selection of films from different parts of the world, including short films, documentaries, feature films, and experimental work.
Organisers of the Zawya project hope to revive the currently neglected independent film industry, which has been severely affected by the commercialisation of film. The small cinema house is an informal embassy for local independent filmmakers, as it is one of the very few that screen their valuable work.