The 34th Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) begins on 30 November and runs until 9 December, with the Egyptian actor Ezzat Abou-Ouf continuing his role as its residing president. This year’s festival features numerous sections and competitions, with just under a hundred countries participating.
Mike Leigh’s Another Year will be the opening film of the festival. The character-driven film centres on a happily married couple, Tom and Gerri, and their unhappy set of friends. The British director has been nominated more than once for an Academy Award and has won several awards including the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival for his film Vera Drake.
The main section is the International Competition for Feature Films, which features 17 movies in total. The competition includes Khaled El Hagar’s feature-length film El Shouq (Longing), which is Egypt’s sole entry for this section of the competition. The film is written by Sayed Ragab and discusses the social and sexual repressions affecting women in Egypt and the Arab world, and stars Sausan Badr, Ruby, Ahmed Azmy and Ahmed Kamal.
Egyptian star Amr Waked stars in one of the movies in the international competition, the Italian film Il padre e lo Straniero (The Father and the Foreigner), directed by Ricki Tognazzi. Waked plays the part of an Arab living in Italy, who befriends an Italian man due to their sons’ common disability. Waked thus extends his international profile, which includes roles in Syriana, House of Saddam and his upcoming film, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, alongside Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott-Thomas.
Presiding over the jury of this year’s International Competition for Feature Films is Arturo Ripstein y Rosen, a renowned Mexican director. Ripstein directed Tiempo de Morir (Time to Die), written by Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez, which initiated a wave of celebrated Latin-American authors providing material for the independent film industry. Ripstein also directed El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel) in 1999, based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez. Ripstein’s 1996 film Deep Crimson was Mexico's official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. The film won eight Ariel awards, including Best Actor and Best Actress and three Golden Osellas at the Venice Film Festival.
The jury’s members also include Hector Olivera (director, Argentina), Remy Girard (actor, Canada), Ali Badrakhan (director, Egypt), Mohamed Hefzi (screenwriter, Egypt), Andrew G. Vagna (producer, Hungary), Irrfan Khan (actor, India), Mohamed Miftah (director, Morroco), Denise Newman (actress, South Africa), Yung Jung-hee (actress, South Korea) and Meltem Cumbul (actress, Turkey).
Another section is the International Competition for Digital Feature Films. A total of 16 movies will compete for the Gold prize of $10,000 and a Silver prize of $6,000, to be shared by the producer and director. The films include East Side Story from Hungary, An Unreturned Love from China, Mooz-Lum (Muslim) from the US and Tangled Up and Blue, a joint production by Iraq, Italy, the UK and the UAE, directed by Haider Rachid.
The jury for this section is headed by Bassek Ba Kobhio (director, Cameroon), whose work includes Sango Malo, Le Grand Blanc de Lambaréné (The Great White Man of Lambarene) and Le Silence de la Forêt (The Silence of the Forest). The jury members are comprised of George Papalios (president, Greek Film Centre), Agnes Kocsis (director, Hungary), Celina Jaitley (actress, India), Najwa Najar (writer/director, Palestine), Nelly Karim (actress, Egypt) and Saadet Isil Aksoy (actress, Turkey).
Two more Egyptian films are participating in the festival, competing in the Arabic feature films section. The first is Microphone by Ahmed Abdullah, starring Khaled Abou El-Naga, Yousra El-Lozy, Hani Adel, Atef Youssef and Ahmed Magdi, with guest appearances by Menna Shalabi and director Yousri Nasrallah. The film revolves around Khaled (Khaled Abol Naga), who returns to Alexandria after years of travel. He stumbles upon the city’s underground world of music and becomes entangled in it. The other entry is Tamer Ezzat’s El-Tariq El-Da’iri (Ring Road). The film addresses human-organ trafficking and hospital corruption.
This section’s jury is headed by Mohamed El-Adl (producer, Egypt) and its members include Fathi Abdel-Wahab (actor, Egypt), Haifa El-Mansour (director, KSA), Bassem Kousa (actor, Syria) and Ibrahim Lotayef (writer/director, Tunis).
This year the festival will also focus on Egyptian cinema through a special section titled “Egypt in the eyes of the world’s cinema”. A selection of 19 International movies will be screened within this section. They include cinematic jewels such as Caesar and Cleopatra, a 1945 film starring Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh, produced and directed by Gabriel Pascal (UK), Cleopatra, a 1963 film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall and Martin Landau (USA), Faraon (Pharaoh), a 1966 Polish film directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz and based on a novel with the same title by the Polish writer Bolesław Prus, as well as Nefertiti, regina del Nilo (Nefertiti Queen of the Nile), a 1961 Italian historical epic about the Egyptian queen Nefertiti directed by Fernando Cerchio.
Not all the selections of this section take us back to Ancient Egypt. In the 1992 psychological thriller, Ruby Cairo (directed by Graeme Clifford), Andie MacDowell travels around the world hunting down the large amounts of money her late husband left in various bank accounts--her search brings her to Cairo. The Beginning and The End, (directed by Arturo Ripstein) is a 1993 movie based on Naguib Mahfouz’s novel of the same title. Cairo Time, directed by Ruba Nadda, is a romantic drama set in Cairo (Canada, 2009).
Eight movies will be screened in the Official Selection out of Competition section. There will also be a special spotlight on Turkish cinema this year, which will screen seven Turkish films. Other sections include the Festival of Festivals, which will screen over 60 films. The New Arab Cinema section will feature four films from Morocco, Iraq and the UAE. Tribute movies will be screened for ARTE, African cinema, Egyptian actor Khaled Abdallah, who is famous for his role in The Kite Runner, and films starring French actress Juliette Binoche, whose career has spanned over 40 films, including The English Patient, Three Colours: Blue and Caché.
Both Abdallah and Binoche are expected to attend the festival, as well as other prominent actors such as Richard Gere and South Korea actress Yun Jung Lee, who has performed in more than 330 films. Poetry, her comeback film after a 16-year absence, will be screened at the festival. The film subtly portrays the search for a new meaning to the life of a woman at the end of her life. Kate Winslet was initially invited to the festival as its guest of honor, but has since apologized and will not be attending.
The ARTE France cinema tribute will feature Youssri Nasrallah’s L’aquarium, which addresses the hidden secrets of Cairo revealed through a nighttime radio show and Hany Abou Assad’s Oscar-nominated and award-winning Paradise Now, which follows two Palestinian friends through a suicide mission gone wrong in Tel Aviv.
The CIFF will also be honouring a number of celebrities this year, including Egyptian actresses Laila Elwi and Safia El-Emari, and veteran cinematographer, Ramses Marzouk.
Cairo International Film Festival website: http://www.cairofilmfest.org