41st Cairo Int’l Film Festival opens in presence of Egypt’s stars

Ati Metwaly , Thursday 21 Nov 2019

The opening ceremony took place on Wednesday at the Cairo Opera House

From left to right: Actress Menna Shalaby, CIFF President Mohamed Hefzy, and filmmaker Sherif Arafa during the festival's opening ceremony (Photo: courtesy of 41st CIFF)

The 41st edition of the Cairo International Film Festival, presided over by producer Mohamed Hefzy, opened on Wednesday evening, gathering Egypt’s renowned actors, actresses and filmmakers at the Cairo Opera House’s Main Hall.

Hefzy announced the opening of the 41st round on behalf of Culture Minister Ines Abdel Dayem, who apologised for not attending the ceremony, due to her participation as part of an official delegation in the activities of the Forum of Ministers of Culture held by UNESCO in Paris.

The following ceremony was hosted by Egyptian actors Khaled El-Sawy and Ahmed Dawoud, as well as Egyptian actress Dina El-Sherbiny. 

The celebrations began at 8pm with a short documentary about late film critic and historian Youssef Sherif Rizkallah to whom the festival’s 41st edition is dedicated. The film showed footage with Rizkallah’s work in television, and his appearances at international film festivals, among many other moments of his life, and his contribution to Egypt’s cinematic field.

El-Sawy called Rizkallah an Egyptian YouTube of cinema knowledge while referring to the numerous television programmes that provided millions of viewers with valuable information about local, regional and international films, trends, history and developments.

Rizkallah, who passed away in July this year, served as the festival’s artistic director since 2000 after joining the festival in 1987 as its artistic secretary. In the 41st edition of the festival, he remains its artistic director, while critic Ahmed Shawky is acing artistic director filling in for Rizkallah. During the ceremony, Hefzy expressed his gratitude to the late critic for choosing him as the president of the festival’s 40th edition, a responsibility he still holds this year. 

Next came on stage Hend Sabry, presenting the Faten Hamama Excellence Award to her colleague Menna Shalaby. The honoured actress said that though she has received many local and international awards, being awarded by the Cairo International Film Festival is incomparable to any other recognition. “Faten Hamama was a great actress and someone I always looked up to,” Shalaby added in reference to the uniqueness of the award. 

Filmmaker Sherif Arafa was granted the Faten Hamama Honorary Award. The award was presented to him by Youssra, who praised the director and the festival’s organisation under Hefzy’s management.  

While receiving the award, Arafa said it is one of the most important moments in his life. “I stand behind the camera, I don’t know how to make speeches, but since I have to say a few words, I’d like to thank all the people who made me who I am, starting with my mother and father [Egyptian director] Saad Arafa who was my first teacher.”

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.

The festival’s 41st edition sheds light on Mexican cinema, drawing many parallels between the cinematic history of both countries: the rise and fall, followed by today’s younger generation of filmmakers who take the seventh art towards new fascinating paths.

The festival honoured an Oscar-nominee, Mexican screenwriter-director Guillermo Arriaga. A short film was screened during the ceremony highlighting footage from numerous Mexican films.

The festival announced the jury of the main competition: writers Stephen Gaghan (USA) and Ibrahim Abdel Meguid (Egypt), directors Marion Hanse (Belgium), Michel Franco (Mexico), Daniele Luchetti (Italy), as well as actress Qin Hailu (China).

The ceremony paid special tribute to important figures of the Egyptian cinema who have passed away this year: actor Ezzat Abo Ouf, the former president of the festival and most recently Haitham Ahmed Zaki.

By the end of the ceremony, Ahmed Shawky, the festival’s acting director, introduced the opening film, The Irishman, by Martin Scorsese.

The 41st edition of the Cairo International Film Festival continues until 29 November. The festival will screen over 150 films (130 feature films, and 20 shorts) representing 63 countries, with many premieres in numerous competitive and non-competitive segments.

In addition to film screenings and discussions, the CIFF also features Cairo Industry Days for the second year in a row. Following its great success last year, Cairo Industry Days brings together local and international filmmakers, producers and other figures in the industry, with the aim of creating many opportunities for Arab filmmakers and storytellers.

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