Egyptian director Sherif Arafa recounts memories during CIFF honoring

Ahram Online , Sunday 24 Nov 2019

After receiving the Faten Hamama Honorary Award, the experienced director spoke at the 41st Cairo International Film Festival about his three-decade filmmaking career

Sherif Arafa

Egyptian veteran director Sherif Arafa recalled memories from his 33 years of filmmaking after receiving the Faten Hamama Honorary Award at the opening of the 41st Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), saying that he "always targets the audience, not festivals."

Many known actors, writers, and filmmakers attended the tribute press conference for the internationally-accredited director, which was presented by the CIFF president Mohamed Hefzy, alongside critic Tarek El-Shinnawy, who wrote a book about Arafa.

“When I decide to make a film, my first goal is the audience. Don’t believe the director who says that success is in festivals and that receiving awards is more important than box office success. I present the film to the public first before sending it to festivals,” the 1960-born Arafa said during the press conference on Friday, as quoted by Bulletin, the daily-journal of the CIFF.

 Sherif Arafa
Egyptian critic Tarek El-Shinnawy (C), director Sherif Arafa (L) and producer Mohamed Hefzy (R) during the honoring press conference of Arafa at the CIFF41, Friday 22 November 2019

Five of his most notable films directed in 1990s — Al-Le’b ma’a Al-Kobar (Playing with the Giants, 1990), Terrorism and Kebab (1992), Al-Mansi (1993), Toyour Al-Zalam (Birds of Darkness, 1995), and Sleeping in Honey (1996) — starred renowned Egyptian actor Adel Imam, who was thanked by Arafa at the ceremony.

Arafa is the winner of several local awards, including the Ministry of Culture’s awards for best director and best film for Playing with the Giants, Al-Mansi and Terrorism and Kebab, as well as best film and best director from the Catholic Film Festival for Toyour Al-Zalam (The Birds of Darkness, 1995). Arafa is the son of late director Saad Arafa and a graduate of the Higher Institute of Cinema.

Arafa recalled his friendship with iconic director Salah Abu Saif and how he learned a lot from him even though they did not work together.

"Abu Saif gave me valuable advice, which is that there is nothing called ‘realist cinema,’ but there is something called the vision of the director and the drama that includes sincerity and realism," Arafa said.

Arafa's films include Aboud ala Al-Hudoud (Aboud on the Border, 1999), Al-Nazer (The Headmaster, 2000), Ibn Ezz (2001), Foul El-Seen El-Azeem (Great Beans of China, 2004) starring comedian Mohamed Heneidi, as well as the action blockbuster Mafia (2002), El-Gazirah (2007), Welad El-Amm (The Cousins, 2009), and many others.

Arafa, who wrote scripts for a number of his most well-known films, including The Treasure 2 (2019), The Passage (2019) and Tamantashar Yom (18 Days, co-written, 2011), also pointed out the importance of making films influenced by what happens in society, referring to his film El-Gazirah 2 (The Island 2), which was inspired by the 2011 revolution.

“We have had a long time to rely on the state. We have large production companies that can take responsibility for the industry. What we ask from the state is to facilitate the process of obtaining permits and obtaining equipment when it comes to making films that, for instance, need military equipment.”

“When cinema was nationalised in the 1960s, production declined and the industry faltered. But over time, a new generation of directors started a new wave in the film industry, such as Mohammad Khan and Atif Al-Tayeb,” he said.

"Artists must recognise the responsibility that the film industry has. It is soft power that is important outside the country."

Arafa also directed a number of episodes for the TV series Tamer and Shawqia and Critical Moments (2007), as well as numerous advertisements.

Arafa also his collaboration with late actor Ahmed Zaki, saying he considers himself lucky to have worked with such a great actor.

During the press conference, many famous actors spoke including Sherif Mounir, as well as director Amr Arafa and actress Laila Elwi.

Arafa was also awarded the best film and best director awards for The Dwarfs Are Coming, Sama’ Hoss, Playing with the Giants, Terrorism and Kebab, Toyour Al-Zalam and Laugh and the Picture will Turn out Right at the Egyptian Cinema Film Association Festival.

International recognition for Arafa came with the silver award for best film for Terrorism and Kebab at the Milano Festival for African Cinema, as well as the bronze award from the Valencia Film Festival for Toyour Al-Zalam.

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