No celebrations as El-Gouna Film Festival opens its sixth edition

Soha Hesham , Friday 15 Dec 2023

El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) launched its sixth edition on Thursday 14 December in the Red Sea resort town of El-Gouna, without special celebrations.


Following two postponements in solidarity with the Palestinian people, the event kicked off without a flashy opening or red carpet event. The majority of guests arrived dressed in black, in stark contrast to earlier iterations of the GFF.

In fact, the organizers announced that this year the festival will not have any celebratory events "reaffirming El-Gouna Film Festival's solidarity with the Palestinian people."

The festival is more strictly focused on providing viewings for its feature films this year.

First to take the stage at the opening ceremony was renowned Egyptian actor Mahmoud Hemeida who said, “We share a responsibility in these darkest times of humanity. We as artists hold the untold stories and the uncomfortable truths. We have the power to highlight the terrors to which the world is turning a blind eye,” he said, referencing Israel's ongoing war on Gaza which since 7 October has claimed the lives of more than 18500 people.

Hemeida then stated that he would not ask the audience to observe minutes of silence, explaining that "mourning is a sign of grief but also it helps to forget [what is happening in Gaza], and [he] doesn’t want anyone to forget."

The opening ceremony then featured a song Ghosn Al-Zaytoon (The Olive Branch) presented by the Palestinian-Chilean singer-songwriter Elyanna.


The GFF's sixth edition includes a special programme dedicated to Palestinian cinema titled "Window on Palestine." Among the films screened are Al-Ustaz (The Teacher) by Farah Nabulsi which scooped Best Film Award and Best Actor Award for Saleh Bakri at the Red Sea Film Festival, and the restored edition of Yousry Nasrallah’s Bab Al-Shams (Gate of the Sun, 2004), to name but a few. 

During the opening event, the director of GFF Intishal El-Timimi said that despite the challenges the festival has faced in previous years - including Covid-19 - and this edition's double postponement, the festival has proven its strength again.

Actress Yousra appeared on stage in black, reciting the words of Mohamed Mounir’s song Hadouta Masriya written by Abdel-Reheim Mansour. She expressed her grief for Gaza and underscored that "there is no better tool than art and cinema to remind the world about their humanity." She handed filmmaker Marwan Hamed the Career Achievement Award who dedicated the award to his late father screenwriter Wahid Hamed. 

Later on, Abu presented his rendition of the song The World is Blind.

Actor Mohamed Farrag alongside two other artists who worked behind the camera - Khairy Farag and Mohamed Kilany - also received due recognition for their contribution to the Egyptian cinema industry.

The founder of El-Gouna Film Festival, Samih Sawiris took the stage and said that he was uncertain of holding this edition, but that once the decision to cancel the celebrations was taken, he was assured that the festival should take place.

Sawiris praised Palestinian cinema saying, "The Palestinian people have brilliant films like any other country and they want to live like any other people in the world." He closed his speech with a wish that next year's festival will enjoy better circumstances.

The ceremony concluded its activities with the screening of Amr Salama’s short film 60 Geneih (60 Egyptian Pounds).



Short link: