Last Sunday the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) president Mohamed Hefzy and artistic director Andrew Mohsen gave a press conference in which they revealed the details of the programme of the 43rd round (26 November-5 December). All-round performer Nelly, perhaps best known for Fawazir Ramadan, will receive the Golden Pyramid for Lifetime Achievement. Film star Karim Abdel-Aziz – who graduated from the filmmaking department of the Higher Institute of Cinema in 1997 but switched to acting with director Ismail Abdel-Hafez’s television drama A Woman from the Time of Love in 1998 – the Faten Hamama Excellence Award. Indian composer A.R. Rahman and French filmmaker and producer Thierry Frémaux will also be honoured.
Opening with Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat’s Official Competition, starring Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez – which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September – CIFF features 98 films from 63 countries. There are 22 films in the short film competition. In the International Competition, according to Mohsen, there may be two or three more than the 13 films announced so far.
The latter include 107 Mothers directed by Peter Kerekes (Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Ukraine); Abusaddam directed by Nadine Khan (Egypt); A Chiara directed by Jonas Carpignano (Italy, France); Aloners directed by Hong Seong-eun (South Korea); Daughters directed by Nana Neul (Germany, Italy, Greece); Daughters of Abdul-Rahman directed by Zaid Abu Hamdan | Jordan); Miracle directed by Bogdan George Apetri (Romania, Czech Republic, Latvia); Prayers for the Stolen directed by Tatiana Huezo (Mexico, Germany, Brazil); Seven Dogs directed by Rodrigo Guerrero (Argentina); Small Body directed by Laura Samani (Italy, France, Slovenia); Softie directed by Samuel Theis (France); The Hole in the Fence directed by Joaquín del Paso (Mexico, Poland); and Tomorrow directed by Dhafer L’Abidine (Tunisia).
The International Competition jury is headed by the two-time Palme d’Or winning Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica and includes Indian filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane, Lebanese composer Khaled Mouzannar, American actress Marisa Berenson, Egyptian actress Nelly Karim, French actress Nora Arzeneder and Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini.
Since its inaugural edition in 1976, the CIFF Out of Competition section because has brought the Egyptian audience some of the most important productions of the year from the most prestigious film festivals from all around the world. This year they include As Far as I Can Walk directed by Stefan Arsenijevic (Serbia, Luxembourg, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania); Drive My Car directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Japan); Hive directed by Blerta Basholli (Kosovo, Switzerland, Albania, Republic of Macedonia); Immaculate directed by Monica Stan and George Chiper-Lillemark (Romania); Pebbles directed by P.S. Vinothraj (India); Pilgrims directed by Laurynas Bareiša (Lithuania); Red Rocket directed by Sean Baker (USA); Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash directed by Edwin (Indonesia, Singapore, Germany); Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Japan).
Critic Rami Abdel-Razeq, who manages the Horizons of Arab Cinema competition, announced that the festival has decided for the first time since the launch of this section to choose a Saudi film for the opening (out of competition): Becoming directed by Sara Mesfer and starring Fatima Al Banawi, Jawaher Alamri, Hind Al Fahhad, Noor Alameer. The films that will compete in this section include A Second Life directed by Anis Lassoued (Tunisia); Collapsed Walls directed by Hakim Belabbes (Morocco); Diary of Gabrielle Street directed by Rashid Masharawi (Palestine); Fiasco directed by Nicolas Khoury (Lebanon, Netherlands); From Cairo directed by Hala Galal (Egypt); Heliopolis directed by Djaffar Gacem (Algeria); Memory Box directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (France, Lebanon, Canada, KSA); Our River Our Sky directed by Maysoon Pachachi (Iraq, UK, France, Germany, Kuwait, UAE); Streams directed by Mehdi Hmili (Tunisia, France); The River directed by Ghassan Salhab (Lebanon, France, Germany). The Horizon of Arab Cinema Jury will include the Saudi actress Fatma El Banaway, the Lebanese filmmaker Hady Zakkak and the Egyptian filmmaker Tamer Mohsen.
One of the festival’s awards is the Best Arab Film Award which will be granted by a special Jury composed of Egyptian actor Amir El Masry, Lebanese actress Razane Jammal and Algerian filmmaker Sofia Djama. The jury will choose the winner out of three competitions: the International Competition, the Horizons of New Arab Cinema, and the International Critics’ Week Competition.
Egyptian filmmaker Marouan Omara, who manages the Short Film Competition, announced the following films: Above The City directed by Malika Mukhamejan (Kazakhstan, Russia); And I Was Left Behind directed by Maysaa Almumin (Kuwait, Qatar); And That’s It directed by Boris Khlebnikov, Natalya Mechshaninova (Russia); Black Box directed by Yun Kinam (South Korea); Blind Spot directed by Lotfi Achour (Tunisia, France); Deliver Me directed by Jannous Nkululeko Aukema (South Africa); Echolocation directed by Nadia Shihab (Iraq, Yemen, USA); Habib directed by Nima Latifi (Afghanistan, Germany); Happy Town directed by James Camargo De Alba (Colombia); I Might Not Normally Share This directed by Noura A. Rahman (Egypt); It’s Nothing Nagy, Just Hang up! directed by Youhanna Nagy (Egypt); Literal Legend directed by Lida Vartzioti, Dimitris Tsakaleas (Greece); Little Farewells directed by Lida Vartzioti, Dimitris Tsakaleas (Greece); Memento Mare directed by Hala Elkoussy (Egypt, Netherlands); Nights and Days in America directed by Louise Zhang (USA); Peddlers directed by Emerson Eduardo Silva, Gabriela Nassar, Gustavo Sibem, Henrique Grise directed by (Brazil); Poem for a Distant Village directed by Bing Liu (China); Prairie Flowers directed by Mariana Xochiquetzal Rivera (Mexico); Skin River directed by Mário Macedo (Portugal); The Ditch directed by Amr Abed (Egypt); Then Came Dark directed by Marie-Rose Osta (Lebanon); Three Disappearances And A Song directed by Nadia Ghanem (Egypt). Omara added that the Jury of the competition will include the Portuguese programmer Cíntia Gel, the Egyptian filmmaker Sameh Alaa and the Congolese filmmaker Machérie Ekwa Bahango.
As for the Cairo Industry Days (CID), the professional hub that creates a world of opportunities for Arab filmmakers and producers, its manager Mariam Deghiedi announced that this, the round edition of CID will host meetings, workshops, discussion panels and masterclasses including: A masterclass with Emir Kusturica; A Masterclass with Director-Screenwriter Roberto Minervini; A Conversation with Egyptian Megastar Nelly, Recipient of CIFF’s Lifetime Achievement Award; A Conversation with Karim AbdelAziz- Recipient of CIFF’s Faten Hamama Excellence Award; A Conversation with the Two- time Academy Award Winner A.R Rahman & Award-winning Music Composer Hisham Nazih; Panel discussion with Peter Mimi. El Ekhteyar - how the introduction of the genre is revolutionising Ramadan Dramas; A Masterclass by Christopher Mack, Netflix’s Grow Creative Director and A Workshop on Post-production with Karim Boutros Ghali.
In the framework of CID, the festival is also hosting the eighth Cairo Film Connection (CFC) to select 15 feature narrative and documentary projects in development and post-production. CFC manager Chadi Zeneddine, announced that the selection of projects includes seven feature narrative projects in development: The Leftover Ladies by Farida Zahran (Egypt); My Driver and I by Ahd Kamel (Saudi Arabia – United Kingdom); Life After Siham by Nameer Abdel Massih (Egypt – France); Nour by Sara Shazli (Egypt), In the Land of Aram by Tamara Stepanyan (Lebanon-Armenia); Ravens of the City by Adham El-Sherif (Egypt – Sudan); Aicha by Mehdi Barsaoui (Tunisia – France).
On the other hand, the selected documentary films include three in-development projects: Bullets do not kill. Silence does by Hind Meddeb (Tunisia – France); American Dream by Amir El Shenawy (Egypt); Bye bye Tiberias by Lina Soualem (Algeria, France – Belgium – Qatar). eThe list also includes three feature narrative film projects in post-production: A Summer In Boujad by Omar Mouldouira (Morocco); Alam - The Flag by Firas Khoury (Palestine – France); and Nezouh by Soudade Kaadan (Syria). There are also two documentary films in post-production: Mohsen of Iraq by Ishtar Yasin (Iraq – Costa Rica); and On The Hill by Belhassen Handous (Tunisia).
The Jury of the eighth Cairo Film Connection includes Alice Kharoubi, the Cinema Programming Director at Cannes’s Marché du Film, the Egyptian filmmaker Sherif El-Bendary and the Lebanese Metropolis Cinema Director Hania Mroue.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly