Relations between Egypt and other African nations have been thrivingly over the past few years as this is one of the strategic ties that gives Egypt its important political position in the world at large. The Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF) has been striving, since its inaugural round in 2012, to complement Egyptian diplomacy in the effort to bring together Egyptian and African cultural activities, helping to spread Egypt’s soft power across the continent.
However, according to honorary president actor Mahmoud Hemida — speaking at the press conference announcing the upcoming 11th round (4-10 March) last week — LAFF administration is concerned that, despite its vital importance, the festival is not receiving enough funds.
Regarding the financial partnership with the different governmental associations and other companies, Hemida felt the word “sponsors” should be replaced by “partners” as the connection benefits the government institutions involved as much as the festival.
LAFF founding president screenwriter Sayed Fouad and LAFF co-founder and director filmmaker Azza Al-Houseiny, for their part, presented the programme and honourees, who include the late Egyptian actors Huda Sultan and Mahmoud Morsy, Moroccan filmmaker Mohamed Ismail, Senegalese filmmaker Gabriel Mambetti, Tunisan filmmaker Ferid Boughedir, Algerian Actress Biyouna, Burkinabe filmmaker Appoline Traoré and Egyptian actor Amr Saad. LAFF will present a lifetime achievement award to the Egyptian film star Hussien Fahmy at the opening ceremony.
The Long Narrative Competition includes 10 films: Habiba by Hassan Ben Jaloon (Morocco), The Gravedigger’s Wife by Khadar Ahmed (Somalia), L’accord by Lea Malle Frank Thierry (Cameroon), Maria Kristu directed by Paul S. Willow (Zambia), Arju directed by Omar Belkacemi (Algeria), A Tune Away by Stanlee Ohikhuare (Nigeria), Masoud by Emmanuel Rotobam (Burkina Faso), Public Toilet Africa by Kofi Ofosu-Yeboah (Ghana), I’ll Go to Hell by Ismahane Lahmar (Tunisia) and 2 Talaat Harb Square by Magdi Ahmed Ali (Egypt).
The Long Narrative Jury consists of Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Touré, Burkinabe filmmaker Apolline Traoré, Tunisia film critic Kamal Ben Wanas, Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis and Egyptian Filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah.
The Long Documentary Competition will screen 11 films: Morning Star by Nantanina Lova (Madagascar), The Colonel’s Stray Dogs directed by Khalid Shamis (South Africa, Libya), A Place Called Wahla by Jürgen Ellinghaus (Togo), Faya Dayi by Jessica Bashir (Ethiopia), Kasongo by Noemie Arazi and Georges Senga (Congo), One Take Grace by Lindiwe Matshikiza (South Africa), Gold Or Money by Eric Revo (Mali), The Last Shelter by Ousmane Samassekou (Mali, South Africa), Suspended Wives by Merieme Addou (Morocco), Characters of Our Netherworld by Haitham Sherif (Egypt), Old Lions by Ibrahim Abbas (Egypt).
The Long Documentary Jury consists of Senegalese filmmaker Katy Ndiaya, Ugandan film critic Fibby Kioria and Ghanaian filmmaker Peter Sedufia, as well as director of photography Mahmoud Abd El-Samie and filmmaker Mohamed Seyam from Egypt.
The Short Films Competition includes 15 films: Heart Attack by Minenhle Luthuli (South Africa), 16 Rounds by Usama Mukawya (Uganda), Half Soul by Marwen Trabelssi (Tunisia), Goodbye Delmar by David Edem Dotse (Ghana), Meneze by Elizabeth Essodong (Togo), Tender Threads by Wejdan Khaled (Morocco), The Court of The King Amédée Pacôme Nkoulou (Gabon), Moça, Where was I? by Denis Miala (Angola), Baby Blues by Diop Mamamdou (Senegal, France), Being of Bones by Denis Valery Ndayishimiye (Rwanda), Batool by Mohamed Zahran (Egypt), Two Rooms and a Hall by Mina Maher (Egypt), Ganaza Harrah (A Hot Funeral) directed by Mohamed Mahmoud (Egypt), Arriving Late by Doha Hamdy (Egypt) and Map by Maggi Morgan (Egypt).
The short films jury consists of Malian filmmaker Fatomato Coulibaly, Moroccan filmmaker Daoud Wilad Al-Sayed, Tunisian singer-actress Ghalia Ben Ali and, from Egypt, filmmaker Khaled Al-Haggar and film critic Ahmed Shawky.
The Diaspora Competition – the only fully international section – includes 10 narrative and documentary features: A child of the Other by Patricia Kwende (France), All the Nights by Latifa Said (Algeria, France), Empire of Silence by Thierry Michel (France), Prince by Lisa Bierwirth (Congo), The Sound of Sugar Cane Flowers by Nicolas Serry (France), As Far As I Can Walk by Stefan Arsenijevic (Serbia, France), A Brighter Tomorrow by Yassine Qnia (France), The Rumba Kings by Alan Brain (USA, Peru), Delphine’s Prayers by Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam (Cameroon), Freda directed by Gessica Genesis (Haiti).
The Diaspora Jury consists of Palestinian filmmaker Rashid Mashharawi, Tunisian producer Doura Bouchoucha and Egyptian actor-filmmaker Ahmed Magdi.
One of this year’s activities is the Factory Initiative which is a long-term project dedicated to African woman filmmakers who live in Africa or elsewhere. It aims to help them produce their own documentaries and expand their connections with the filmmaking market. The Factory will include 11 long documentary projects from South Africa, Algeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Syria, Jordan and four from Egypt. It will support the selected participants with financial and non-financial awards, including training, consulting and technical support.
Since its inauguration, the LAFF philosophy has provided for the education of the local community and this year the festival will include eight different workshops for locals: filmmaking conducted by Ahmed Rashwan, children’s cinema by Shwikar Khalifa, actor preparation by Al-Asaad Al-Jamousi, film posters by Zainab Soubhi, building legacy heritage Saeed Al-Bagouri, theatrical storytelling for women by Eman Shahin, mural painting by Ahmed Hamdi, and children’s painting by Wael Nour.
LAFF administration has given this year’s round the slogan “Rediscovering Egypt” and hopes to highlight Egyptian heritage by celebrating two significant centennials: the 100th anniversary of the spectacular discovery of the Tutankhamun tomb in the Valley of the King by British Egyptologist Howard Carter in 1922, and the 200th anniversary of Deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion in 1822. As part of this vision LAFF will host three art exhibitions: Photographic Exhibition (Tutankhamun), Plastic Artists Exhibition “From the South” and the Honorees Poster Exhibition.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.