The Egyptian short film Henet Ward ("Ward's Henna Party"), the debut from director Morad Mostafa, has been shortlisted to compete at a number of different international film festivals across the globe, some of which qualify prizewinners to compete at the Oscars and the BAFTA awards.
"So far, the film has been selected for ten Oscar- and BAFTA-qualifying film festivals and 40 other international festivals worldwide. The road is very long, but we are making good steps towards it," the 32-year-old filmmaker told Ahram Online this week, thanking his French distributor Salaud Morisset.
Since its world premiere at Clermont-Ferrand in February, the Bonanza production has become a favourite choice for various festivals across the globe, such as Cinalfama Lisbon, Nòt, Busan and Rhode Island.
Last month, Henet Ward received a special mention for the jury of the 2020 Palm Springs International Short Film Festival.
"A lot of festivals have invited us but I can't attend all of them. I will attend Busan in Korea and La Guarimba in south Italy," confirmed Mostafa, who has been known in the film industry since 2010 as an assistant director to directors like Hala Khalil, Sherif El-Bendary and Mohamed Diab.
Poor people’s hostility
Tackling various sensitive issues like poverty, racism and discrimination, the 23-minute film follows Halima, an Egypt-based Sudanese henna painter, and her young daughter Ward, as they head to a party in Giza near the pyramids to do their job.
"The film is about a conflict that occurs between a group of poor people. I wanted to look at the ordinary lives of simple people and the hostility that they have for one another, focusing more specifically on the lives of refugees in general and the Sudanese in particular," explained the director, who co-wrote the script with Mohamed Ali Mansour and co-produced the film with Sawsan Youssef.
"Egypt is becoming more strict against discrimination and the government is playing a great role in facing such issues, like what happened with the Sudanese youngster incident last year," he added.
The cast includes Emad Goniem (Hassan), Hagar Mahmoud (Mona), Amal Salah (Basma's mother) and Marina Victor (Basma). The cinematography was done by Zezo while the editing was finalised by Mohamed Mamdouh with the sound was designed by Moustafa Shaaban.
Egyptian cinema and independent filmmakers
Mostafa, who was the first assistant director for Ayten Amin's Souad, one of 56 films among the Cannes film festival’s official selection for its cancelled 2020 edition, is currently developing a new short film in collaboration with a French producer.
"I hope our international participation increases in upcoming years. In fact, the biggest problem for independent filmmakers is the funding. Good films are so rare in Egypt because most producers only aim for profits without any consideration of quality or support for independent filmmakers," said the assistant director of multi-award-winning films Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim, and Villa 69.
"Recently, we have had many short films competing in the most important festivals in the world. Among these films I liked Fifteen by director Sameh Alaa. I think it was a different leap in the industry of short films in Egypt," concluded Mostafa.
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