Returning as the largest showcase of cinematic art in the Arab world, the Cairo International Film Festival offers a large volume of foreign films and a selective programme of parallel activities this year. From 27 November to 6 December, the Cairo Opera House will act as the home of the 35th Cairo International Film Festival. Screenings and seminars will span over nine locations within the vast Opera House, the designated palais du festival (palace of festival) for this year.
It is no secret that Egypt’s political and cultural dynamics are radically different than when the festival was last held in 2010. A revolution, a chaotic transition of power and a major shift in political players leave us where we are today; a divided society grappling over constitutional issues, past the threshold of Islamic rule.
The censorship committee of the Cairo International Film festival has already reportedly rejected a few films on account of themes of sex, homosexuality, adultery, and nudity. Audiences are yet to find out if the characteristically diverse and inclusive festival will mirror the contemporary shift in Egypt’s political currents towards conservative Islamism.
In 2011, in the wake of the revolution and in preparation for the first round of post-revolution elections, three of the country’s major festivals were cancelled; the Experimental Theatre Festival, the National Festival for Egyptian Cinema and the Cairo International Film Festival.
In its first edition since the January 25 revolution, this year's Cairo International Film Festival features 175 films hailing from 64 countries, to take part in three competitions; international feature films, Arab feature films, and human rights films; and appear in the following sections; African cinema, Arab revolutions in cinema, world cinema, Arabic films, Turkish films, and finally, tolerance and intolerance in cinema.
Award-winning Egyptian film "Winter of Discontent" by Ibrahim El-Batout has been chosen to screen in the opening of the 35th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival. Staring Amr Waked, Farah Yousef and Salah Alhanafy, the film poignantly explores tales of terror and uncertainty materialising in the wake of the January 25 revolution.
The Cairo Opera House will be adorned with large-scale graffiti murals commissioned by the CIFF to commemorate the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution.
The festival’s flagship symposium this year is entitled "African Cinema as a Medium of Political, Social, and Cultural Emancipation and its Role in Improving Africa’s Image." Taking place on 29 November, the session will discuss how African film is altering perceptions of the continent.
This year’s festival sees a strong presence of Turkish cinema (a reemerging phenomenon from 2010), as well as a seminar dedicated to discussing "Turkish drama and Egyptian audience" scheduled for 4 December.
Tolerance and peace are also spotlighted in this year’s film festival. Syrian-American director’s Moustapha Akkad’s El-Resala (The Message), which portrays the admirable qualities of Islam, will be featured.
The Cairo film festival introduces workshops for the first time this year, offering; “Digital camera and its creative capabilities” and “Make-up and special effects” in collaboration with Turkish and French experts.
Presiding over the jury of this year’s International Competition for Feature Films is Marco Müller, who previously directed the Venice International Fillm Festival for 8 years. Egyptian actor Mahmoud Abdel Aziz has been chosen as the president of the Arabic Film Competition, and Egyptian scriptwriter Ghada Shahbender is the 35th CIFF president for Human Rights Film Competition.
The annual Cairo International Film Festival was established in 1976 as the first international movie festival in the Arab world. Since 2006, renown Egyptian actor Ezzat Abou-Ouf has been the head of the festival.
Cairo International Film Festival website: http://www.ciff.org.eg/