Aiming to provide professional training to amateurs from around the Delta region about the latest editing and storytelling techniques in the documentary film industry, Cinedelta project was launched in 2016 through the fruitful cooperation between the Italian non-governmental organisation Ricerca e Cooperazione and Fig Leaf Studios.
The programme provided 20 Egyptian students with a series of workshops, lectures, master classes, and documentaries productions. The first edition of the project was funded by the European Union in partnership with major international institutions in Egypt such as the Goethe Institut, the Swedish Institute Alexandria, the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI), Institut Français d’Egypte, the British Council, the Alexandria art museum, and the Library of Alexandria.
“Unfortunately, we have a small number of documentary movies in Egypt with limited distribution, although this genre became very popular worldwide and started to receive increasing rates of demand,” said Islam Kamal, one of the co-founders and mentors of Cinedelta project.
In his opinion, the filmmaking training fields are no longer restricted to the graduates of the Higher Institute of Cinema or the other academic institutions. Thus, the programme decided to reach amateurs in their cities in order not to oblige them to move to Cairo. The programme compensates students for their transportation fees if they study outside Delta or Alexandria.
“The main selection criteria are based primarily on passion. We choose amateurs who have some previous experience in shooting videos and photos and have some background knowledge about documentaries,” Kamal added.
The programme hosted 20 training sessions with 20 local mentors as well as trainers from France, Denmark, Scotland, and the US, whose main aim was to improve the ability of Egyptian independent filmmakers and support the production of their short documentaries.
“The students finished their training sessions last August and started implementing their projects since September. We witnessed the progress they achieved throughout the process and how they became more aware of the value of cooperative team work. They also developed interest in certain specialised fields such as writing, shooting, editing, and others,” Kamal noted.
This month, the programme is also hosting the Cinedelta Documentary Film Festival. The festival began on 1 February and runs until 9 February. It is being held in Alexandria, Tanta, and Rosetta to improve the regional distribution of independent Egyptian films and reach out to audiences that otherwise have a harder time accessing these films.
“The festival will host screenings of a big number of short documentary movies that are open to the public at low prices. The students’ movies won’t be competing in the official competition but they will be screened separately,” Kamal said.
Among the outstanding documentary projects produced by Cinedelta students, Eman Abdel Aziz’s movie about the changes in the architectural style of Al-Mansoura city and the destruction of the ancient palaces there highlighted some of the problems the governorate is suffering from.
“In another movie, Beshoy Kamel discussed the historical roots of the marriage offices and showed the influence of this idea on society and its development over time,” Kamal added.
Although the project’s founders are currently studying the possibility of establishing an academic institution for teaching academic courses in the field of documentaries, the procedures are quite complicated as it requires cooperation with different ministries and legal institutions in Egypt.
“We are currently contacting various documentary film schools in Germany to exchange mentors. We are also working on a new project aimed at producing a manual that will be distributed in hard and soft copies to amateur filmmakers all over Egypt,” Kamal concluded.