The Sharm El-Sheikh Asian Film Festival (SAFF), under the presidency of director Magdi Ahmed Ali, kicked off its third edition Saturday at the Conferences Centre of the coastal Red Sea city with the attendance of many filmmakers and critics from countries across the continent.
The opening ceremony, which opened with one minute of silence for the casualties of the train accident that occurred at Cairo's Ramses Station last week, witnessed the attendance of many known faces, including producer Esaad Younis (the festival's honorary president), Hala Sedky, Lotfy Labib, Madlin Tabar, Mahmoud Qabil, Ahmed Wafik and Amr Abed, writer Medhat El-Adl and director Enas El-Deghidy.
“Egypt is an African but also an Asian country. It’s important to look to new horizons towards the east,” stated Yunis, expressing her gratitude to be the festival’s honorary president.
Besides a number of enchanting performances, ranging from Eurasian superstardom to ancient Chinese folk dances and a performance of singer Dilara Kazimova of Azerbaijan, SAFF screened a video-clip based on a remix of a rare song recording by the late Egyptian actress Souad Hosni, ‘Faker Wala Naker,’ showing shots of her well-memorised roles in various movies.
Hosni’s sister received the festival’s djed pillar trophy, an ancient Egyptian religious symbol, handed over by Yunis amid an honouring ceremony for the icon that also saw revealed a large sculpture by Essam Darwich that is to be placed in a square in Sharm El-Shiekh and named after Hosni.
“In each edition, we are keen to honour artists that enriched Egyptian, Arab and international cinema,” said Ali, thanking attendees and all SAFF supporters, from the government to sponsoring businessmen.
“We are trying to introduce a different edition. We are part of Asia and we are keen to know about its cinema and to present ours to countries with which we don’t culturally interact enough,” the SAFF head added, pointing to Egypt's efforts to “to stand against terrorism.”
Fifty-eight films from 26 countries will be competing for nine awards in five competitions, with three Egyptian films to have their world premiere.
Films will be shown from Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Tatarstan, Tajikistan, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s a new thing to turn towards Asian cinema and it’s essential to support such festivals, as its one of Egypt's soft powers,” stated Gamal Zayda, head of the Noon Foundation for the Arts, which is organising the festival.
The Best Actress Award is named after Souad Hosny, while the Best Actor Award honours Ahmed Zaki. Each award carries a prize of $3,000, as does the award for Best Feature Film, which will be presented by the Ghad Al-Arabi television channel.
For the first time in Egyptian award history, an award will be presented for the Best Animated Feature Film. Other awards will include Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Documentary.
Awards will also be given for Best Short Film and two certificates of appreciation for the second and third runners up.
In addition to a workshop by Egyptian documentary filmmaker Ali Al-Ghazoli, the festival has launched another youth filmmaking workshop where participants made a series of short films to be screened during the festival.
The famed Chinese Director Xie Fei, the third edition’s guest of honour, will be the head of the festival's jury. Xie Fei’s works have won him multiple awards internationally and in China.
The Noon Foundation for the Arts stated, "It is our duty to give Egyptian and international artists venues and opportunities to inspire and in turn be inspired by each other, to create new identities and to express these identities; the old and the new, the Egyptian and the international.
"Our focus may shift as the world changes and as circumstances change, but our vision will stay the same; to build a sustainable friendship between Egypt and the rest of the world, to support the growth and development of all Egyptian visual arts, and most of all, to curate a better future for everyone."
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