The evening opened with a speech by NCHR Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Karim, who emphasised Egypt’s soft power. The event was dedicated to filmmaker Nour Al-Demerdash (1925-1994), who was represented by his son the talk show host Moataz Al-Demerdash. Nour made numerous landmark series through the 1960s and 1970s.
Born in Tanta in 1925, Nour Al-Demerdash attended the Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts after graduating from the Faculty of Commerce in 1955, and he directed plays by the great comedian Ismail Yassin. His TV credits include La Totfei Al-Shams (Don’t Put Out the Sun), Hareb Min Al-Ayam (Refugee of the Days, 1962), Al-Daheya (The Victim, 1964), Al-Raheel (The Departure, 1965), for which he also wrote the screenplay, and Al-Bakeya Taati (And the Rest Follows, 1966), and he made films like Thaman Al-Horreya (The Cost of Freedom, 1967) and Garima Lam Taktamel (Incomplete Crime, 1972). He also starred alongside Soad Hosni and Rushdi Abaza in the iconic film Saghira Ala Al-Hob (Too Young to Fall In Love, 1966), directed by Niazi Mustafa. He passed away while shooting the series Al-Soqout fi Baer Sabaa (Falling In Sabaa Well) in 1994.
Taht Al-Wessaya (Custody) was the first winner, for its obvious contribution to the significant issue of how the custody of children is handled after the death of the father and its possible impact on widowed mothers. Among the honourees were actors Mona Zaki, Roushdi Al-Shami, Ali Sobhi and Diab, though the latter was the only one present and the other awards were handed to the Media Hub production company representative. With a screenplay co-written by Sherine and Khaled Diab, the series was directed by Mohamed Shaker Khodeir. All three were also honourees.
The celebrated Syrian actor Gamal Suliman, who was among the attendees, was honoured for his role in the TV series Omla Nadra (Rare Breed), directed by Mohamed Gamal Al-Adl, which tackles the delicate issue of inheritance laws and how women are treated unfairly in an Upper Egyptian setting. NCHR Cultural Rights Committee member Samir Louka said: “The series showed many loopholes existing in the personal status laws.” Screenwriter Medhat Al-Adl was present to receive his award, and honourees who were not present during the ceremony include actors Ahmed Eid, Nada Moussa and Nelly Karim.
Risalat Al-Imam (The Imam’s Message), which follows the real life events of the Imam Mohamed Al-Shafei and the challenges he faced while spreading his message, was also awarded. Present were its director Laith Hijo and writer Mohamed Hesham Obaya together with actors Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Hamza Al-Eily, Salma Abu Deif. NCHR member Ezzat Ibrahim made a speech in which he said it “drew attention to one of the most important scholars in Islamic history and the choice of Egypt as a stage for most of the events in the drama aimed at emphasising the specificity of the Egyptian model and its tolerance for all religions and sects during a critical historical era.”
The evening also featured the honouring of actresses Aida Riyad and Hanan Suliman for their roles in Al-Harsha Al-Sabaa (The Seventh Year Itch). It received the award of the jury, which included Tarek Al-Shinnawi, Ola Al-Shafei, Andrew Mohsen and Sayed Mahmoud. NCHR Cultural Rights Committee member said “it addressed women’s rights and children’s rights as well, and how marriage disputes affect the children psychologically.”
There was also an honourable mention of the TV series Gatt Salima starring Donia Samir Ghanem, directed by Islam Khairi.
Renowned actress Samira Ahmed was honoured at the end of the ceremony for her life’s achievements and her huge contribution. Ambassador Fahmi Fayed said, “Samira Ahmed is an artistic institution whose cinematic repertoire exceeds 82 films and a number of radio and television series and after a closer look at her career we can call her ‘the conqueror of difficulties’.”
* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 July, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly