Eyes of a Thief, Gate of Departure to compete at Cairo International Film Festival

El Ott, Theeb, Challat, Silvered Water and Decor also to screen at a new, revived edition

Events and Festivals, Egypt

Eyes of a Thief, Gate of Departure to compete at Cairo International Film Festival

The much-awaited 36th Cairo International Film Festival has unveiled its programme, with Arab and European titles in its new and revived sections. The festival is to run at the Cairo Opera House from November 9 to 18.

In the festival's international competition, Egyptian director Kareem Hanafy's narrative feature debut The Gate of Departure will make its world premiere. The film follows a son who will not know his mother until her death, and a mother who will not know her son until his. Hanafy produced the film himself, through his company Khayal. 

Also in the international competition is Palestine's candidate for a 2015 Oscar, Najwa Najjar's second narrative feature Eyes of a Thief.  In the film, Tarek, played by Egyptian actor Khaled Abol Naga (Microphone, Villa 69), returns home from Israeli prison to find his daughter, ten years after being arrested during the second Intifada. He plays alongside Algerian singer and actress Souad Massi, who also composed some of the soundtrack.

Other contenders for the prize are to include Emirati director Nujoom Al Ghanem's documentary Red, Blue, Yellow, a portrait of Emirati artist Najat Makki, Hubert Sauper's documentary about colonisation We Come as Friends and Thomas Cailley's Love at First Fight from France, Margarita Manta's Forever from Greece, and Emanuele Caruso's And There Was Evening And There Was Morning. Australia's 2015 Oscar submission, Rolf de Heer's Charlie's Country, will also compete.

After a two-year break, the festival is set for an artistic and organisational revival this year, with veteran film critic Samir Farid as president and young producer Mohamed Samir (Factory Girl, Egypt's submission for a 2015 Oscar) as artistic director. But up to 100 people have been working on the festival, Farid told the press this week, as the festival's new direction has sought to involve all of Egypt's major cinematic bodies in preparing the event. 

This year, the festival is thus launching its first-ever International Film Critics' Week. Its first edition, organised by the Egyptian Film Critics' Association, is to screen Yassine el Idrissi's The Iranian Film, a docu-drama about filmmaking in Morocco, as well as Ivan Gergolet's Dancing with Maria, Tinatin Kajrishvili's Brides, Vok Rsumovic's No One's Child, Maya Viktova's Viktoria, Lois Patino's Costa de Morte and Khei Igarashi's Hold You Breath Like a Lover.

In the first Prospects of Arab Cinema, organised by the Cinema Syndicate, competing films include Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar's Theeb (Best Director in Venice's Horizons section), Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania's Challat of Tunis, Palestinian director Rashid Mashawary's Palestine Stereo, Moroccan director Kamal Kamal's Sotto Voce, Egyptian director Ibrahim El Batout's El Ott (recently premiered in Abu Dhabi), Lebanese director Zeina Daccache's Sheherazade's Diary, a documentary portraying the women in Lebanon's Baabda Prison, and Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu (in competition at Cannes this year, and Mauritania's first-ever submission for an Oscar). Also screening will be Kuwaiti director Ahmed Elkhalaf's He Was My Friend.

In the Special Presentations, Turkish-German director Fatih Akin's The Cut (Special Mention in Venice) will open the festival. Other films include premieres of Syrian directors Oussama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan's documentary Silvered Water, Egyptian director Ahmed Abdalla Sayed's Decor, Emirati director road trip comedy Ali Mostafa's From A to B (with a script co-written by Mohamed Hefzy) and the Egyptian director Mohammed Radi's Wall of Heroism.

The Festival of Festivals section is to include Yury Bykov's The Fool, Alain Resnais' Life of Riley and Jean-Luc Godard's 3D film Goodbye to Language.

The Cinema of Tomorrow section, whose selection was made by students and graduates from Egypt's Higher Institute of Cinema, will screen 15 short films and 17 student short films from 25 countries.

The festival will notably honour Egyptian actress Nadia Lotfy, whose almost 75 films include Youssef Chahine's Saladin the Victorious and, briefly, Shady Abdesalam's The Mummy, and Moroccan director Noureddine Sail, who is seen to have boosted film production in Morocco as head of the Moroccan Cinema Centre (CCM), before being replaced recently by Mohamed Fassi-Fihri.

The Egyptian Cinema Chamber is organising a professional event, the Cairo Industry Forum. Filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers can sign up for a badge to attend the festival via its website.


Alice Hackman

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