Reality bites

Hani Mustafa , Tuesday 27 Feb 2024

Hani Mustafa is looking forward to a new round of the Ismailia Film Festival

Life is Beautiful
Life is Beautiful


The Ismailia International Film Festival (IIFF) is one of the important cinematic events in Egypt, being the only one dedicated to documentary, short narrative and animation films. Many regard it as the only pure film event, focusing on cinema without the glamour of superstars.

Last Wednesday, at Al-Hanager Theatre, Opera House ground, IIFF President and film critic Essam Zakaria announced the details of the 25th round (28 February-5 March), which will include 121 films from 62. Also present at the press conference was Hussein Bakr, president of the National Film Centre which co-organises the festival, and Khaled Abdel-Galil, adviser to the minister of culture for cinema affairs and head of the censorship authority.  

In the Long Documentary Competition, the festival will screen: Under Construction directed by Markus Toivo (Finland); Casablanca directed by Adriano Valerio (France, Italy); Samar directed by Aya Yusuf (Egypt); God is a Woman directed by Andres Peyrot (Panama, Switzerland, France); Under the Sky of Damascus directed by Talal Derki and Heba Khaled (Syria); No Winter Holidays directed by Rajan Kathet and Sunir Pandey (Nepal); Life is Beautiful directed by Mohamed Jabaly (Palestine); Malqueridas directed by Tana Gilbert (Chile, Germany); The Burden directed by Elvis Sabin Ngaïbino (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo); A Silent Story directed by Anders Skovbjerg Jepsen (Denmark, Sweden); After The Bridge directed by Davide Rizzo and Marzia Toscano (Italy).

In the Short Documentary Competition, the festival will screen: Guarda Vieja 3458 Timbre 3/6 directed by Karin Akerman and Miguel Cebra López (Brazil, Portugal, Argentina); Agroecology and Feminism In Guinea Bissau directed by Iara Lee (Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Brazil, US); Light of Light directed by Nirit Zincke (Greece); Assassination directed by Yassine Ayat Fakir (Morocco); Ayoub directed by Ajwad Abd Jeradat (Palestine); Hoda – A Mother on Hold directed by Rabel Arayan (Egypt, Germany); Prima. Elisa Carrillo Cabrera directed by Veronika Bukovčíková (Germany); Romeo directed by Maria Arzumanova (Armenia); The Moon Will Contain Us directed by Kim Torres (Costa Rica, United States); Wood directed by Mortez Bayashiniarz (Iran); Chasing the Sun: El Shatt directed by Ana Bilankov (Croatia); Death Is Dangerous, It Could Hurt directed by Maryam Beliveau (Canada); Hazy Earth directed by Famke Janssen, Anastasiia Berezinska (Netherlands); Heiresses directed by Silvia Venegas (Spain); Here... In Damascus directed by Saha Hassan (Syria); Peace..To My Beloved Nation directed by Mohamed Fretay (Sudan); Violet Country directed by Mikhail Gruboshchuk (Russia); About The Past and Now directed by Raffy Shaker (Egypt); The Last Winter directed by Haydar Dawood (Saudi Arabia, Sweden); We Are Not a Shadows directed by Sheikh Yahya Iyah (Mauritania).

The jury of the two documentary competitions consists of Stefano Savona (Italy), Ahmed M Al-Mulla (Saudi Arabia), Amal Ramsis (Egypt); Emiko Stock (Serbia) and Terri Ginsberg (US).

In the Short Fiction Competition, the IIFF will screen: A Lamb, a Sheep and Ravens directed by Ayman Hamou (Morocco); A Tortoise’s Year of Fate directed by Yi Xiong (China); As It Was directed by Anastasia Solonovich, Damian Kuker (Poland, Ukraine); Dreams Like Paper Boats directed by Samuel Sferrin (Haiti); Group Picture directed by Tommaso Frangini (Italy); Hurry Up directed by Karim Tajout (Morocco); Inside Me directed by Nika Jakovleva (Latvia, Russia); It’s Fine directed by Ala Al-Seefa (Russia, Georgia); Kinship directed by Ali Al-Hajri (Qatar); Nobody Wants the Night directed by Remy Etani (Lebanon, Germany); The Ghosts You Draw on My Back directed by Nicholas Stoyanovich (Serbia); The Last Rhinoceros directed by Giliam Harvey (Canada); The Old School directed by Abdullah Al-Khamis (Saudi Arabia); Visceral Love directed by Amna Al-Najjar (Tunisia); White Ant directed by Shalini Adnani (UK, India); 36 Roses Street directed by Christian Shybulias (Italy, Greece); Lunch Time directed by Halim Nouh (Egypt); The Key directed by Rakan Miyasi (Palestine, Belgium, France, Qatar); I Promise You Paradise directed by Murad Mustafa (Egypt, France); Mar Mama directed by Magdy Al-Amri (Palestine).

While in the Animation Competition, the festival will screen: Box Cutters directed by Naomi van Niekerk (France, South Africa, Netherlands); From One Painting.. To Another directed by Georges Schwizgebel (Switzerland, France); The Suitcase directed by Chloe Mazlo (France); Lack directed by Pawel Prewencki (Poland); Meditation at Dusk directed by Judit Erdélyi (Hungary); Monk Seishin directed by Rotaro Miyajima (Japan); Outside directed by Izabela Plucinska (Poland, Germany); Tahlequah The Whale: A Dance Of Grief directed by Daniel Kreuzberg (Lithuania, United States); The Family Portrait directed by Lea Vidakovic (Croatia, France, Serbia); To Bird or Not To Bird directed by Martín Romero (Spain); Vision directed by Kajal Harmendar (Japan); The Boy of The World directed by Simon Massi (Italy); End of A Voyage directed by Choi Minho (South Korea); Wormwood-25 directed by Nadezhda Goldman (Russia); In The Shadow of The Cypress directed by Hossein Mollaime and Shirin Sohani (Iran); Deedra directed by Duaa Osama (Egypt); Mara’s Cry for Rain directed by John Kiare (Kenya); Humbug Manor directed by Juan Carlos Mostaza (Spain).

The Short Competition and the animation jury consists of Alisa Lebow (Serbia), Zoë Schmederer (Germany), Henda Haouala  (Tunisia) Sabry Fawwaz (Egypt).

In the Students Competition, the IIFF will screen: The Waltz of Dreams directed by Leila Rizk; Before I Forget directed by Ghazal Abdullah; For You directed by Mai Wael; I Thought I Would Make a Poetic Film with My Brother directed by Ahmed Al-Kayyal; A Mobile Game directed by Youssef Al-Kassry; Calm directed by George Saeed and Nadim Ahmed; Mokhtar the Lover Of The Chisel directed by Dina Hassan Abu Al-Ala; About things I don’t Know directed by Karim Nada; Red directed by Jameela Weifi; Soul directed by Nada Osama; The Last Feast Day directed by Maryam Zaher, The Surrogate directed by Mazen Fawzi; A Shooting Star directed by Nisreen Shahab;  Graduation Project about Cairo directed by Mahmoud Youssef Khawaja; A sweepstake offer directed by Omar Ali; The Mess We Leave directed by Salma Darwish; The Sarcastic Artist directed by Maryam Salim. The student competition jury consists of Mohamed Shafik, Manar Hosny and Ahmed Fawzy Saleh. While the FIPRESCI (​​International Federation of Film Critics) jury consists of Jihane Bougrine from Morocco, Soumaya Azzam from Lebanon and from Egypt Doha Al-Wardany.

The festival will honour American film producer and director Steve James, Palestinian filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel and Egyptian actress Salwa Mohamed Ali. It will commemorate the late Abdel-Kader Al-Telmissani (1924-2003) who was a pioneer filmmaker and producer, showing three of his documentaries: Water and Life (1971), The Hoe and the Pen (1972), and The End of The Bar-Lev Line (1973).

In addition to the film screenings in the various competitions and sections, the festival also arranges some other activities like an exhibition from veteran photographer Mohamed Bakr’s archive about the late iconic Egyptian filmmaker Shadi Abdel-Salam. The festival will also feature different masterclasses with filmmaker Steve James, filmmaker Daniel Kotter and film scholar Terri Ginsberg, as well as scriptwriting, animation, decoration, filmmaking for children, Arabic calligraphy, and shadow puppets.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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