A few days before the opening ceremony of the 38th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), Magda Wassef, the president of the festival, with representatives of the Parallel Programs running alongside the international competition in CIFF and the 4th Cairo Film Conncetion unveiled some secrets about one of Egypt’s most reputable artistic and cultural events.
Over the course of nine days, the festival will screen 204 films in three cinema portals around Cairo.
From 15-24 November, the festival will welcome more than 100 film representatives (directors, producers, actors, and actresses) from around the globe to present to and discuss their movies with the Egyptian audience. Sixty will participate in the official selection (International Competition, Festival of Festivals, International Panorama) while others will participate in the Parallel Programs (Prospects of Arab Cinema, Critics’ Week, Cinema of Tomorrow).
The Egyptian film Youm Lel Setat (A Day for Women), directed by Kamla Abo Zekry, will compete in the international competition alongside 16 other films, including another Egyptian film El Bar El-Tany (The Other Side) by director Ali Edrees.
The two Egyptian films are competing against the Serbian film A Good Wife by Mirjana Karanović, the Romanian film Dogs by Bogdan Mirică, and many others.
In a press conference held last week, Wassif, along with other festival organisers, announced that this year’s edition will witness organisational enhancements in an attempt to avoid the problems that happened last year. This includes the availability of booking tickets online and over the phone, as well as dividing reservation offices into sections (students, media, VIPs, guests, etc.) in order to facilitate the process of booking tickets for the screened films.
Among the jury members who were recently announced by the administration of the festival are Jordanian actress Saba Mubarak and Egyptian actress Arwa Gouda because of their expertise in the field. The international jury will be headed by German director Christian Petzold whose movies represented Germany in international festivals around the globe over the past years.
Critic Youssef Sherif Rizkallah, the artistic director of the festival, explained the two main selection criteria for the movies this year. The first is the discovery of new films to be presented in the international competition—recognised by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. The second is to present the most important international films to the Egyptian audience—films that do not easily find their way to Egyptian cinema screens.
Among the important movies that were selected to participate in the festival this year is Toni Erdman, which tells the story of a woman (Sandra Hüller) who has to spend time with her estranged father (Peter Simonischek) when he comes for a surprise visit to reconnect with his daughter. The movie participated in Cannes and was received with a standing ovation. It also won the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) prize, before being designated by international film critics as “Film of the Year” at the San Sebastian Festival.
Additionally, It’s Only the End of the World—which won the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes—will also be screened. The movie tells the story of a writer who returns back to his hometown to announce his upcoming death to his family. A number of movies like The Land of the Enlightened by Pieter-Jan De Pue, The Teacher by Jan Hrebejk, Ma’ Rosa by the famous Filipino director Brillante Mendoza, as well as Where to Invade Next? by prominent American documentary director Michael Moore will take audience members on a journey around the globe.
On the other side, a large number of Egyptian documentaries will also take part in the festival, including Nasser’s republic: making of modern Egypt by director Michael Goldman and Waheed Sobhi’s movie We are Egyptian Armenians, which documents the history of the Armenian community in Egypt, and their contribution to Egypt’s economy and culture. Another Egyptian documentary is A Footnote in Ballet History directed by Hisham Abdel Khalek, which follows the story of the first generation of Egyptian ballet dancers, specifically the first five girls who danced in the famous Russian Bolshoi Theater. The Spanish documentary The Last Summer by director Leire Apellaniz will also be screened, giving an account of the recent evolutions in the field of classical cinema.
As for the Egyptian drama film Akher Ayam El-Madina (In the Last Days of the City), both Wassef and Rizkallah insisted on their decision of excluding it for not respecting the CIFF’s rules. In the press conference that took place last week, Wassef vividly explained that director Tamer El-Said did not follow the rules requested by the festival that includes not participating at any other international festival, insisting that the elimination has nothing to do with the film’s production quality.
The festival will also host eight Oscar-nominated movies, such as Kills on Wheels by Attila Till from Hungary and Marko Skop’s Eva Nova from Eastern Europe, as well as the Egyptian film Eshtebaak (Clash) by Mohamed Diab, which has been chosen to represent Egypt at the Academy Awards.
This year, the Faten Hamama Award will go to late director Mohammed Khan, prominent Egyptian actor Yehia El-Fakharany, Palestinian producer Hussein El Qala, as well as director Cheick Oumar Sissoko from Mali.