The festival celebrates what legendary Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr described during the opening as “universal language of cinema.”
Tarr received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
“If we think of the 100 most important films in the history of world cinema, they will include Tarr’s work.”
That is how Festival Director Amir Ramses introduced the renowned filmmaker who often highlighted humanitarian issues in his films using a unique cinematic philosophy. Tarr will be giving a filmmaking workshop as well as a masterclass. CIFF will also screen two of his films The Turin Horse (2011) and The Werckmeister Harmonies (2000).
Béla Tarr said in his speech that he is proud of his presence at the festival, noting that he knows that everyone understands him through cinema, even if many people around the world do not necessarily understand the Hungarian language.
He noted that cinema is the language of feelings that everyone communicates with despite different religions and cultures, emphasising: "We are all human.”
Tarr was one of dozens of international guests attending this year’s edition. A total of 54 countries are represented by their films in the festival.
Around 100 films will be screened including 79 features, 18 shorts, and 10 classics. 30 films will see their world and international premieres at the festival, while 57 will have their regional premieres for the Middle East and North Africa.
Inside the legendary Cairo Opera House, journalists and photographers gathered to interview and take pictures of the celebrities who attended the red carpet opening, gathering several local and international stars in several artistic fields.
In the beginning of the ceremony, the festival exhibited artistic performances to commemorate late actor and artist Samir Sabry who passed away last May. Festival President and veteran actor Hussein Fahmy said that “Samir was a very dear friend and was proof that Egyptian cinema has a rich history of comedy, musicals, action, and thrillers.”
Sabry was actually one of the Egyptian actors who was present and worked in the very first edition of CIFF on 17 August 1976.
The festival also paid tribute to actress Maha Abu Ouf, director Ali Abdel-Khaleq, and actor Hesham Selim, all of whom passed away this year leaving behind them a legacy in the Egypt’s rich history and their mark on Arabic popular culture.
President Hussein Fahmy also said that he is honoured to head the CIFF team in this edition, and thanked the festival partners as well as the different Egyptian ministries who presented support for the festival.
Fahmy expressed his long love of Egypt’s classic black and white films and announced that part of the festival’s role is to preserve and restore the heritage of Egyptian cinema. The 44th CIFF will screen two masterpieces by legendary Egyptian directors: Tawfik Saleh's Diary of a Country Prosecutor (Yawmiyyat Na’ib Fl Aryaf, 1969) and Ali Abdel Khalek’s Passageway Song (Ughnia ala el-Mamar, 1972).
He added that this will be the start of a new tradition that the festival will be keen to pursue in the coming years.
The festival coincides with the convening of the United Nations’ global climate summit COP27 in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh. Currently, world leaders, politicians, activists, and organizations are discussing the tireless efforts necessary for the unprecedented disturbances in the climate that threaten the entire planet.
“CIFF asserts that it will start applying measures to raise awareness regarding climate change, including reducing paper publications, plastic products, and using electric cars,” Fahmy announced during the opening.
Award winning actress Nelly Karim took the stage to present the 2022 Faten Hamama Award of Excellence to director Kamla Abouzekri.
Her talent and remarkable work crowned her as an unforgettable role model for everyone in the television drama and film industries, winning the hearts of audiences across the region.
“I am always proud when I am speaking at the podium of the Cairo Opera House. But today I am lucky because I am giving an award which is close to my heart: the Faten Hamama Award of Excellence, and to a director who is close to me personally.”
“She was able to involve us in the stories she directed in a complete and honest way,” Karim said referring to Abouzekri.
The director revealed that she was thrilled to be receiving an award carrying the name of the “Lady of the Egyptian and Arab cinemas.”
“I am grateful to all the artists whom I met during my journey since I was 16 years old, to the artists who believed in me and those who didn't and those who I learned from,” Karim said.
She also thanked the talented directors which have supported her, such as the late actor Ahmed Zaki, and directors Mohamed Khan, Atef El-Tayyeb, and Nader Galal.
The festival also honoured renowned Egyptian actress Lebleba, whose extensive career kick-started during her early childhood.
With a robust repertoire, she encompasses a roster of indelible films and some of Egyptian cinema’s milestones in serial drama hits and entertainment performances.
Lebleba told the audience that the 13th of November is a special date for her as it is her birthday as well as the date that she was honoured by CIFF. “When my mom started giving birth to me, she was in the cinema house, and I was almost delivered in the cinema.”
The opening ceremony came to an end with the screening of this year’s opening film, the semi-autobiographical tale The Fabelmans by Steven Spielberg.
With many more regional premieres and special workshops yet to come, this festival is an event not to miss.
(Photos inside the text: Ahmed Hassan)
*This article was originally published in the CIFF Daily Bulletin, 14 Nov 2022, Issue 1.