All you need to know about the 41st Cairo International Film Festival

Ahram Online , Wednesday 6 Nov 2019

Mexico in Focus, Cairo Industry Days, Panorama of the New Egyptian Films are part of the rich programme of the 41st CIFF, which will screen 150 films (130 feature films and 20 shorts) representing 63 countries

41 ciff
From left to right: Sherif Arafa, Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, Menna Shalaby

The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is an annual international film festival organised by the Ministry of Culture in Egypt.

The festival's 41st edition will kick off on 20 November and continue until 29 November.

Film critic Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, who passed away in July 2019, had served as the festival's artistic director, and critic Ahmed Shawky has been delegated to take care of all the tasks related to this position this year.

Presided over by Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy (who was also the 40th CIFF's president), this year the festival comes bigger and stronger, showcasing 150 films, with many premieres in numerous competitive and non-competitive segments.

According to the information revealed by the CIFF, the festival is accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) and is committed to comply with all its conditions and regulations.

Opening film

The festival will open with a screening of Martin Scorsese's The Irishman

The $160 million Netflix production, based on Charles Brandt's book 'I Heard You Paint Houses,' stars Robert De Niro in their ninth cooperation, in addition to Academy Award winners Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

The Irishman
(Photo: still from film The Irishman)

Films in numbers

This year, the festival will screen 150 films (130 feature films, and 20 shorts) representing 63 countries.

A large number of films screened within the CIFF will have their international or regional premieres. They include 18 world premieres, 17 international premieres, 84 MENA premieres, five African premieres and seven Middle East premieres.

The festival honourees

The festival's 41st edition is dedicated to Egypt’s legendary film critic and historian Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, who died on 12 July this year at the age of 76.

The expert, who served the festival since 1987 and became the festival’s artistic director in 2000, will be honoured through many activities throughout the festival.

"Rizkallah’s decades of work in popularising and spreading knowledge about a variety of segments of the seventh art has left an important mark on the hearts and souls of cinema followers," Hefzy stated. “We have learned love for cinema from Rizkallah; we hope to continue learning the sincerity towards this field, alongside many values that we often miss from those days.”

During the festival's opening ceremony, veteran Egyptian filmmaker Sherif Arafa will be honoured for his lifetime achievements with the Faten Hamama Honorary Award.

Also on the festival's opening day, Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby will be honoured with the Faten Hamama Excellence Award.

The Faten Hamama Honorary and Excellence awards are granted every year to senior and promising artists in the local and international cinema scene. The award was designed by famous sculptor Adam Hanin.

Menna Shalaby
File Photo: Menna Shalaby (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Competitions, awards and jury

The CIFF's main competition includes 15 films from all across the world.

The festival has invited numerous renowned international filmmakers and film specialists to sit on the main competition's jury panel: writers Abdel-Meguid (Egypt) and Stephen Gaghan (USA), actress Qin Hailu (China), as well as directors Marion Hansel (Belgium), Michel Franco (Mexico) and Daniele Luchetti (Italy). 

The jury will award the following prizes:

• The Golden Pyramid for Best Film, presented to the producer.
• The Silver Pyramid, Special Jury Prize, for Best Director.
• The Bronze Pyramid for Best First or Second Work of a director.
• The Naguib Mahfouz Prize for best screenplay.
• The prize for Best Actor.
• The prize for Best Actress.
• The prize for Best Artistic Contribution.

The CIFF's Horizons of Arab Cinema Competition will comprise 12 films from Arab countries.

The jury consists of programmer and jury president Piers Handling (Canada), actress Hana Shiha (Egypt), musician Amine Bouhafa (Tunisia), alongside producers Steven Kitanov (Belgium) and Lamia Chraibi (Morocco).

The International Critics' Week Competition comprises seven films with two awards offered to the winners: the Shadi Abdel-Salam Award for Best Film, awarded to the director, and the Fathy Farag Award for Best Artistic Contribution.

Another section of the CIFF is the Cinema of Tomorrow International Competition for short fiction films, with the jury (Egyptian actress Hanan Motawea and Dutch film promotion expert Nathalie Mierop) watching 20 films and deciding on the winner of the Youssef Chahine Award for Best Short Film and the Special Jury Award.

The festival will also grant $15,000 for Best Arab Film Award, offered to the producer of a film chosen by the jury, especially for any Arabic film participating in any one of the festival's three competitions (the International Competition, the AFAC Competition, and the International Critics' Week Competition).

Out of competition segments

Aside from the films competing for awards, cinephiles will be able to watch dozens of films screened in out of competition segments.

Special Screenings will showcase 12 films while International Panorama will present 48 films. Both segments include films produced after September 2018 and were not screened in Egypt (or any TV or sat channel) prior to the 41st CIFF.

Panorama of the New Egyptian Films comprises seven films, all produced in 2019.

Midnight Screenings will present seven films screened at midnight.

Sherif Arafa (Photo: courtesy of CIFF)

Focus on Mexico

The 41st CIFF announced Mexico as the country in focus with numerous events dedicated to the country and its film industry. 

Two filmmakers will be honoured during the festival: screenwriter-director Guillermo Arriaga and filmmaker Michel Franco.

Within Focus on Mexico, eight films will be screened, providing a large overview of the country's cinematic wealth: from 1953 Luis Buñuel's El (This Strange Passion) to 2015 Michel Franco's Chronic.

Cairo Industry Days

In its last edition, which was also presided over by Mohamed Hefzy, the CIFF introduced the Cairo Industry Days.

Now in its second edition and following it great success last year, Cairo Industry Days brings together local and international filmmakers, producers and other figures involved in the industry, with the aim of creating many opportunities for Arab filmmakers and storytellers.

Industry panels include film and TV workshops, master classes and in-conversations, conferences and summits, as well as Cairo Film Connection, a segment dedicated to supporting film projects in development and in post-production. This year, 16 feature films from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Tunisia were chosen from the over 100 projects submitted to CFC from 12 Arab countries.

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