The lower number of Egyptian films on the international scene reflects the downward curve in film production. What adds insult to injury is the increasing number of Arab films participating in important international film festivals, some from countries with an as yet emerging film industry such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
This year eight Arab films were officially selected to take part in the Venice International Film Festival (28 August-7 September), all debuts, from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon and Tunisia. Not a single Egyptian film is included. A handful of emerging filmmakers do suggest a light at the end of the tunnel, however, with independently produced films.
Hisham Saqr’s debut Be Elm Al Wosool (Certified Mail, 2019), for example, is premiering in the Toronto International Film Festival’s Discoveries section. Saqr is an established film editor and the younger filmmaker Ahmed Abdalla’s collaborator on such films as Microphone (2010), for which he won the Dubai International Film Festival’s Muhr Arab Award for the Best Editor of a feature film.
He also edited Elshita Elli Fat (Last Winter 2012) by Ibrahim El-Batout, which participated in the Venice Film Festival 2012 and won awards at the Cairo International Film Festival, the Dubai International Film Festival and the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival in 2012. Written and coproduced as well as directed by Saqr, Be Elm Al Wosool was preceded by a short film, Bakara (Hymen, 2010). It is coproduced by Saqr’s White Feather and Mohamed Hefzi’s Film Clinic. It stars Basma, Passant Shawky and Mohamed Sarhan.
Another Egyptian film — this one participating in Toronto’s official short film competition, Short Cuts — is Fakh (The Trap, 2019), written and directed by Nada Riyadh and co-produced by Felucca Films and inselfilmproduktion (Egypt, Germany). The Trap had its world premiere in the official competition of the 58th Semaine de la Critique at the Cannes Film Festival 2019. It will also be screened in the official competition of the Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival (22 August-1 September), one of the most important short film festivals in Latin America 2019.
Produced by Ayman El Amir, Eva Schellenbeck and GregorStreiber, it won the film prize of Robert Bosch StiftungStfitung for Arab-German co-production, 2017. The Toronto Festival programme “Here and Now: Contemporary Arab Women Filmmakers” also features the Egyptian Hala Lotfy’s film Al Khorog Lil Nahar (Coming Forth by Day, 2012), which won the Best Director from the Arab World award from Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2012.
Though not an international festival, since its establishment in 2011 the Malmo Arab Film Festival (MAFF) has become the most important Arab film festival in Europe. Its upcoming round (4-8 October) includes ten Egyptian films. Among them is Leil Khargy (Exterior/ Night, 2018) by Ahmed Abdalla, which won the Best Actor award at the 40th Cairo International Film Festival in and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018; and El Deif (The Guest, 2018), written by Ibrahim Eissa and directed by Hadi El-Bagouri (who won the 2013 National Festival for Egyptian Cinema’s Best Director Award), starring Khaled El Sawi, Sherine Reda, Ahmed Malek and Gamila Awad.
Two Egyptian films are participating in the documentary competition: Kilo 64 (2018) by Amir El Shenawy, which had its world premiere at the Cairo International Film Festival in 2018; and Al Shoghla (The Profession, 2019) by Ramez Youssef, which premiered at the Sharm El Sheikh Asian Film Festival in 2018.
The short films competition also includes three Egyptian films: Adam Abd El-Ghaffar’s debut Shoka w Skina (Fork and Knife, 2018), which premiered at El Gouna Film Festival in 2018; Tamer Ashry’s Ma Te’lash ‘an El Hageb (Eyebrows, 2018), which won the Best Short Film award at the second El Gouna Film Festival; and Nouran Sherif’s debut Extra Safe (2019). Malmo will also see the premiere of the Egyptian animation film The Princess and the Knight (2019) written and directed by prominent screenwriter-director Bashir El Deek, out of competition.
Also out of competition, Abu Bakr Shawky’s Yomeddine (2018), which won the François Chalais Award at the Cannes Film Festival and was Egypt’s selection for the 2019 Oscars, and Marwan Hamed’s Turab El Mas (Diamond Dust, 2018) will be screened.
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