After leaving Cairo’s film enthusiasts in suspense for months over this year’s selection, the 4th Panorama of the European Film (23-29 November) finally announced its full schedule at a press conference on Wednesday.
The organisers had already teased cinema lovers with some hints about the selection via a poem on its website and Facebook page, adding to the audience’s anticipation.
The festival contains various films that won awards at Cannes this year, such as the Dardenne brothers’ Le Gamin au Velo, which won the Grand Prix; The Artist, which won the best actor award for Jean Dujardin’s performance, and Lars Von Trier’s Melancolia, which landed Kirsten Dunst a best actress award.
Other much anticipated films include Wim Wender’s Pina, Olivier Assaysas’ Carlos, and Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In.
A documentary film about the Egyptian Revolution, Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Politician, will have its Egyptian premiere on 25 November.
“During these politically difficult times, it is essential to hold such cultural events,” said Marianne Khoury, head of the festival, adding that this year a special section would be dedicated to films about revolutions taking place around the world.
There will also be sections dedicated to French films, documentaries and feature films. The festival will also be education-oriented and target schools, she said.
Gϋnther Hasenkampf, regional director of the Goethe Institut, said he believed “we are seeing the era of documentary films,” and was happy to note three very distinct German documentaries were in the schedule.
The first film is Videograms of a Revolution, about the downfall of President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena in the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
“The film relies on found-footage of amateurs,” Hasenkampf said. “It is a documentation of history.”
The second film is The Green Wave, a documentary about the 2009/2010 election protests in Iran.
“It is very much like a feature film,” said Hasenkampf, adding that many parts are animated due filming restrictions in Iran. “It is a very sad story and you may leave the cinema in tears,” he said.
The third film is a magical documentary called Pina, about the modern dance performer and choreographer Pina Baush, who died in 2009.
“The film’s strength is in the images it presents,” asserted Hasenkampf.
Last year, the focus of the festival was on German cinema, especially the films of Turkish immigrant Fatih Akin, and a dark and gripping film by Michael Haneke called the White Ribbon.
This year French cinema is the focus, and Thomas Bregon, audiovisual attaché at the French embassy, commended the high quality of films on show.
Between 200 and 250 films are made per year in France and the festival is a rare chance to watch French cinema in Egypt, he said.
This year’s visiting director is Romain Goupil, an activist filmmaker who has worked with Godard and Polanski.
The British films on show are fairly dark and led Cathy Costain, arts manager at the British Council, to joke that if all of Britain was as depicted in the films, one would never go there.
The first film, Neds, is a coming-of-age story; while the second, Submarine, also revolves around a teenage boy. The third, Made in Dagenham, is about a women’s strike for equal pay in the 1960s.
“It is part of British social history and women’s social history,” she said about the film.
The cultural counsellor of the Spanish embassy, Ana Maria Alonso, discussed the Spanish films. The first, Even the Rain, is about Bolivian protests against water privatisation. The second film, Chico and Rita, is an animated love story set just before the Cuban Revolution. The third, Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, is about a plastic surgeon haunted by past tragedies who creates a synthetic skin that can withstand any kind of damage. The latter film is one on Almodovar’s finest, according to Alonso.
“The film has just been released in Spain,” she said, adding that it must have taken a lot of hard work to get it screened in Cairo.
The festival is considered the cultural event of the year and expected to draw healthy audiences despite taking place during parliamentary elections.
Last year, tickets for Alejandro González’s Iñárritu’s Biutiful and Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men, were sold out for more than one screening. Organisers will be hoping for similar enthusiasm this year.