The third edition of the Luxor African Film Festival came to an end with a closing ceremony held Monday night, 24 March, in Luxor’s Rowing Club.
The ceremony was attended by Egyptian and international members of the jury, celebrities including director Khaled Youssef, festival guests such as acclaimed Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima, as well as government officials, most notably the governor of Luxor, Tarek Saad El-Din.
The programme kicked off with a speech by festival president screenwriter Sayed Fouad, who thanked the attendees for making this year’s edition possible.
Fouad’s speech was followed by a word from Governor Saad El-Din, who expressed his pleasure at the choice of Luxor to host the esteemed cinematic event, emphasising the city’s tradition of welcoming visitors from all over the world.
Egyptian filmmaker Khaled Youssef took the stage next, pointing out that the festival, which first took place in 2011, is the same age as the Egyptian revolution, adding that he hopes it will revolutionise Egypt’s relationship with its African neighbours, restoring the shared respect and cooperation that existed in the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Youssef also said he admires the Egyptian people for proving their love for art and culture by founding such a festival amidst the political turmoil that’s been engulfing the country for three years.
Festival director actress Azza El-Husseiny spoke next, drawing attention to "Itisal," a forum launched by the festival aimed at revitalising the market for African cinema.
Then came the time for handing out the awards to winning films.
In the Long Narratives competition, special jury awards were given to Moroccan actor Hassan Ben Badida for his role in director Hisham Lassiri’s They Are the Dogs, and to composer Jim Neversink for the score of South Africa’s Durban Poison.
The Artistic Achievement Award was given to Senegal’s Tall as the Baobab Tree, by director Jeremy Teicher.
The special jury award went to Algeria’s The Rooftops by Merzaq Allouache, one of North Africa’s most significant living directors.
As for the category’s biggest award, the Grand Nile Prize, it was given to Rwanda’s genocide drama Imbabazi: The Pardon, by Joel Karekezi.
In the Long Documentaries category, the Artistic Achievement Award was a tie between Algeria’s The River, directed by Abdenour Zahzah, and Emirs in Wonderland, by Tunisian filmmaker Ahmed Jlassi.
The special jury award was given to South Africa’s The Devil’s Lair, by Riaan Hendricks, while the Grand Nile Prize was awarded to Egypt’s Doaa Aziza, by director Saad Hendawy.
When it came to short films, the special jury award went to two films: Moroccan director Najat Jellab’s The Projectionist, and Egypt’s Reda, by Rami Gheit.
The Artistic Achievement Award for short films, meanwhile, was given to Uganda’s Haunted Souls, by Godwin Otwoma.
The Grand Nile Prize went to Tunisia’s Made in Gougou, by Latifa Doghri, in the documentary category, while the short narrative Grand Nile Prize was awarded another Tunisian film: Wooden Hand, by Kaouther Ben Hania.
In the Freedom Films Competition, the only category with non-African contenders, the winner was Sweden’s My Stolen Revolution, by Iranian director Nahid Persson.
Special mention and a certificate were also awarded to Tunisian film The Professor, by director Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud.
An award given by the iShabab Foundation, the organisers of the festival, in the name of late director Radwan El-Kashef, was received by Egyptian filmmaker Maysoon Elmasry for her short film El-Bostan El-Saeed Street.
A special award was also given by the Filmmakers’ Syndicate in the name of late filmmaker Mohamed Ramadan, one of the hikers who died in the recent Saint Catherine's tragedy. The award went to the film Without by Egyptian director Islam Wefqy, marking the night’s final win.
A moving speech was then given by Haile Gerima, reflecting the prominent filmmaker’s boundless enthusiasm for the festival, being an initiative that brings together African filmmakers from all around the continent. “What is wrong with Africa is that we are people whose stories were stolen,” Gerima said. “But now, through the cinema, we are reclaiming our history, the stories that were robbed, and presenting it to the world in our own way.”
Gerima’s fiery speech was followed by an entertaining performance by Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi, whose upbeat numbers energised the crowd and ended the night on a joyful note.