The 35th Alexandria Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries (8-13 October) closed on Sunday at the Sayed Darwish Theatre, Alexandria’s opera house in the presence of, among many celebrities, the festival’s president’s critic Al-Amir Abaza, who presided over the ceremony.
The 35th carries the name of iconic Egyptian actress Nabila Ebeid, with Spain as guest of honour. Honoured alongside Ebeid at the opening ceremony, in the presence of Minister of Culture Enas Abdel Dayem, were Egyptian actor Mahmoud Kabil, Egyptian director Mohamed Fadel, Lebanese actor, director and screenwriter Rafik Ali, Tunisian director Rachid Ferschi, Spanish actor Hugo Silva and Spanish director Koldo Sierra. The festival also celebrated the works of the late novelist Ihsan Abdel-Quddous and the late directors Hassan Al-Imam and Ezzedine Zulfaqar, three of the most renowned names. It opened with 70 Binladens by the Spanish director Koldo Serra, starring Hugo Silva, both of whom were also honoured.
The Alexandria Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries included five competitions: the Feature Film Competition (15 films), the Short Film Competition (34 films), the Mohamed Bayoumi Competition for Short Egyptian Films (16 films), the Nour Al-Sherif Competition for Long Arabic Films (13 films, including one Egyptian feature film entitled Gameya Paper by Ahmed El Babli), and the Best Screenplay Competition announced during the opening ceremony.
The Moroccan film Nomades won three awards in the Long Films Competition: the Best Film Award, the Youssef Chahine Award for Best Director (Olivier Coussemacq), and the Faten Hamama Award for Best Actress (Jalila Talemsi who played the lead). The Omar Sharif Award for Best Actor in the Long Films Competition went to Aleksandar Seksan, the star of Good Day’s Work (Turkey/Slovenia) by Martin Turk. The Naguib Mahfouz Prize for Best Screenplay went to Joud Said and Ramy Kousa, the co-writers of the Syrian film Sky Road by Joud Said, and the Special Jury Prize went to Istrupya by the Palestinian director Ahmed Hassouna.
Mourine by the Lebanese director Tony Farjallah won both the Jerusalem Award for Best Artistic Achievement and the Kamal Al-Malakh Award for Best First or Second Work of the Director. Another Moroccan film, The Old Man and the Mountain by Mohamed Reda Gueznai, won the Best Documentary Short Film Award, while the Special Jury Award for Short Documentary went to My Tyson by Italian director Claudio Casale. The Best Short Narrative Film Award went to The Van by the Albanian director Erenik Beqiri, while the Special Jury Award for Short Narrative Film went to Pierre’s Heart by the French director Olivier Binder.
In the Mohamed Bayoumi Competition for Short Egyptian Films Mr Somebody by Paula Edwards won the Best Narrative Short Film Award, while Toshret by Amer Abi Hassiba won the Best Short Documentary Award. Two Special Jury awards went to Trapped , a narrative film by Mohamed Maged, and Set El Habaib, a documentary by Mohanad Diab. As for the Nour Al-Sherif Competition for Long Arabic Films, the Best Film Award went to Sky Road by the Syrian director Joud Said, which also won the Best Actor Award received by the renowned actor Ayman Zidan. The Special Jury Award went to the Moroccan film The Ultimate Rebellion by Jilali Ferhati. The Iraqi film director Nawzad Shekhany won the Best Director Award for his film Toren. The Syrian film The Confession by Basel El Khatib won both the best Screenplay Award and the best Actress Award which went to Dima Kandalaft. Mahmoud Abdel Aziz Prize for best artistic achievement went to the Saudi film Zero Distention, by Abdulaziz Al Shlahi. And Ahmed Al Hadary Prize for First or Second work of the director went to the Tunisian director Hiba Dhaoudi for her film Girl of the Moon.
A special Panorama of Spanish Cinema included Facing the Wind by Meritxell Colell Aparicio, Dual Cell by Ignacio Malagon, Super in Love by Curro Bernabeu and The First Memory by Jesus Ponce. There were also tribute screenings of Egyptian films like The Belly Dancer and the Politician (1990) by Samir Seif, Love in the Prison Cell (1983) by Mohamed Fadel, My Father is on the Tree (1969) by Hussin Kamal, and Palace Walk (1964) by Hassan Al Emam. Another special screening was The Burning of the Cairo Opera House (2011) by Kamal Abdel-Aziz, marking the 150th annieversary of the building of the Khedival Opera, which burned down in 1971.
To celebrate 35 years of the festival, a photo exhibition offering glimpses into previous rounds was held. Workshops included Cinema and Experimentation by the Syrian film critic Salah Sermini, which featured screenings of films by French film directors Girar Coran, and Hugo Ferland, as well as film editing with Ghada Gobara, directing with Hala Khalil, cinematography with Kamal Abdel-Aziz and screenwriting with Naser Abdel-Rahman.
The Alexandria Mediterranean Film Festival is an annual event held in Alexandria and organised by the Egyptian Association of Film Writers and Critics. Its patron are the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Tourism and the Alexandria Governorate.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.