THE FIFTH El Gouna Film Festival (GFF, 14-22 October) opens tonight at the Gouna Conference and Cultural Centre (GCCC), launched last year. With precautionary measures against Covid-19, the ceremony will be presented by the Egyptian radio and television anchor Nardin Faraj. It features the opening film Zhang Yimou’s One Second, set during the Cultural Revolution, which follows the story of prisoner who escapes from a labour camp, risking her life for a stolen film reel. It had its world premiere at the San Sebastián Film Festival this year, and is screening in the Official Selection Out of Competition. At the opening ceremony, GFF will also honour Egyptian actor Ahmed El Sakka with the Career Achievement Award of GFF.
In addition to the three principal competitions – Narrative, Feature Documentary, and Short Film – there is the Official Selection Out of Competition and Special Presentations, bringing the total number of films being screened to 80. A new El Gouna Green Star Award for environmental films is being introduced this year. There is also the Cinema for Humanity Audience Award for feature-length films with a humanitarian theme, and the Khaled Bichara Award for Egyptian Independent Filmmakers, commemorating the late CEO of Orascom Development Holding company.
The Official Feature Narrative Competition includes Amira (Egypt), directed by Mohamed Diab, Another World (France), directed by Stéphane Brizé, Captain Volkonogov Escaped (Russia), directed by Aleksey Chupov and Natasha Merkulova, Casablanca Beats (Morocco), directed by Nabil Ayouch, Compartment No.6 (Finland), directed by Juho Kuosmanen and winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival as well as another Egyptian film, Feathers, directed by Omar El Zohairy, which also won the Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival’s Critics’ Week.
The Feature Documentary Competition includes Back Home (Egypt), directed by Sara Shazli, Sabaya (Sweden), directed by Hogir Hirori, set in Syria where two men are volunteering to rescue Yazidi women and girls held by ISIS at Al-Hol camp; the film received the Jury Prize at the 2021 Hong Kong Film Festival and the World Documentary Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekl