After two cancelations due to the pandemic, the 23rd Egyptian National Film Festival (ENFF) was held with a full schedule but with little opportunity for audience interaction.
Run by the Cultural Development Fund, a division of the Ministry of Culture, since it was not held last year, this year the festival included both the 2020 and the 2021 submissions.
With some 170 films produced between 2018 and 2021, screenings were nonetheless confined to jury members, with only the award-winning films featured in a week-long programme of special screenings at the Creativity Centre after the closing ceremony.
The ceremony was held in the presence of Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem at Al-Gomhoreya Theatre on 23 March. In her speech Abdel Dayem praised the role the ENFF plays in supporting the Egyptian film industry, while critic Kamal Ramzy, the president of the festival, said that despite the pandemic Egypt was able to produce up to 200 films.
The ENFF is an annual opportunity for Egyptian filmmakers to show their work and achieve high-profile local recognition. It accepts long and short documentary, fiction, and animation films by established and emerging filmmakers. Films are only eligible for participation if they have been publicly screened inside Egypt. A new regulation was added this year whereby films screened on online platforms during 2020 were also eligible.
Between Two Seas
The festival is headed by the renowned film critic Kamal Ramzy, who succeeded filmmaker Samir Seif as president in February 2020. The latter had been president since the 17th ENFF, held in 2013, when he passed away in December 2019.
Four renowned figures received this year’s honorary awards, including the name of the late director of photography Samir Bahzan, who passed away in September 2020. He started his career in the early 1970s and worked with, among others, such celebrated auteurs as Youssef Chahine, Yousry Nasrallah and Daoud Abdel Sayed.
An honorary award also went to the name of the late filmmaker Hasan El-Emam (1919–1988) whose career as a director and screenwriter continued for 40 years from the mid 1940s and until the mid 1980s and included 91 films, many of Egyptian film history’s greatest landmarks among them.
Also honoured was the iconic composer Hany Shenouda (b. 1943) who has composed the scores for up to 150 films since the early 1970s. Likewise actor Lotfy Labib (b. 1938), who has made his unique mark since the mid-1970s. The festival published four books on the life and career of the honored figures.
Although there were no public screenings of the participant films, the new round of the ENFF was an opportunity to sum up Egyptian film production during a difficult time while there were few if any screening opportunities.
In the animation film section, Bubble by Mohamed Saad Mahmoud won the Antoun Selim award for the first work. Mr. Purple by Osama Abu zeid won the special jury award. And Shattered by Karim Sultan won the best animation film award.
A Day and a Night
In the short Narrative films competition, Hamed Do Something, by Sayed Omar won Shadi Abdel Salam award for the first work. This is My Night by Yusuf Noaman won the special jury award. Meshwar by Mohamed Farouk won the best short narrative film award
In the long documentary films competition (over 15 minutes) Kilo 64 documentary film by Amir Al Shenawy won the Saad Nadim award for the first work. The Maze by Hanan Rady won the special jury. The best documentary film award went to Where did Ramses Go? by Amr Bayoumi.
In the short documentary films competition (up to 15 minutes). When People Are Content by Mohammed Hosny Yassin won the special jury award, and the best short film went to A Message to my Father by Loay Galal.
In the long Narrative films competition, About Her, by Islam El Azazy won the third production film award. It also won the best cinematography award which went to the director of photography Abdel Salam Mousa, and the best art directing award which went to the renowned art director Onsi Abou Seif.
When We Are Born by Tamer Ezzat, won the second production award for the Long Narrative film competition, and it also won the best Film Score award by Sherif El Hawary.
Between Two Seas by Anas Tolba won the first production award for a long narrative film. It also won another 5 awards which include the first work by its director which went to Anas Tolba, the best actor in a second role which went to Mahmoud Fares, the best actress in a second role which went to Arafa Abdel Rasoul, the best screen writer which went to Amany El Tounsi and Karim Dalil, and the best film editing which went to Yamen Zakarya.
External Night by Ahmed Abdullah won the best director award, the best costume award by Reem El Adl, the best sound track award by Mohamed Salah, and the best actress award which went to Mona Hala.
A day and A Night by Ayman Makram won the best actor award which went to the renowned actor Khaled El Nabawy. And Cactus Flower by Hala El Kousy won a special prize for actress Menha Al Batrawy.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly