The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) decided to expand its Horizons of New Arab Cinema Competition, raising the number of participating films from eight to 12 in the festival’s 41st edition.
The competition screens the latest of Arab cinema, through which various feature and documentary films compete.
In a press statement, the festival said the expansion is to support and highlight Arab cinema, which “has been seeing a remarkable leap in recent years that resulted in its representation in major international festivals.”
The CIFF announced that this expansion will be manifested through three decisions; raising the number of films, introducing two new awards to the best non-fiction film and the best acting performance, in addition to the existing Saad El Din Wahba award for Best Arab Film, and the Special Jury (Salah Abu Seif) award. This upscales the total number of awards to four, increasing the number of jury members from three to five.
According to the CIFF’s President Mohamed Hefzy, the current representation of Arab countries like Tunisia and Morocco in major festivals as Cannes, Venice, and Toronto shows that they are on the right track. “This was due to the support, infrastructure, and environment with which they provide their film industries. Countries that lack support and a good film market like Sudan and Lebanon, however, have also started producing important fare with which they reached the same international forums, making their experience worthy of attention and study,” Hefzy said in the festival’s press statement.
Such growth in Arab film production, Hefzy pointed out, had to be reflected in the CIFF, which is therefore providing Arab cinema with a greater opportunity to reach its audience and compete in its programmes.
“The CIFF has been seeking greater support for Arab cinema since its 40th round, in which money awards of $15,000 for the best Arab feature in any of the festival’s competitions was introduced, judged by an independent jury. In addition, there were various awards given to film projects at various stages of development or post-production, which amount to over $110,000,” he added.
The Director of the Competition, Critic Ahmed Shawky, said it has been, over the past years, one of the CIFF’s most popular programmes, through the festival’s statement. “With few, if any seats in the theatres unoccupied during screenings, it reflects the Cairo audience’s interest in all that is new in Arab cinema,” he added.
Shawky explained that the increase in the number of films will give the curatorial team a greater opportunity to put together a richer competition, more expressive of the latest trends in the constantly evolving sphere of Arab filmmaking.
According to Shawky, the programme will open on 21 November with a gala screening of the Tunisian film Bik Eneich (A Son) by Mehdi Barsaoui, whose star Sami Bouajila won the 76th Venice Film Festival Horizons’s Best Actor Award this month. Together with 13 other projects, the film will participate in the fourth edition of the competition which started in the 38th edition of the CIFF.
Set in the wake of the Tunisian revolution, A Son is a story of a family whose vacation turns into a nightmare when the son in a terrorist attack. When they discover the child’s need of a liver transplant, tensions between the family start to erupt.
Last year, Horizons of Arab Cinema Competition included two Egyptian films, Ward Masmoum (Poisonous Roses) by Fawzi Saleh, and Kilo 64 by Amir El-Shenawy; two Lebanese films, Ghadaa El Eid (Heaven Without People) by Lucien Bourjeily, and Good Morning by Bahij Hojeij; two Moroccan films, Jahilya by Hisham Lasri and Laziza by Mohsen Al-Basri; a Tunisian film, Fatwa, by Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud; and a Saudi film, Amra and the Second Wedding, by Mahmoud Sabbagh.