GFF opening ceremony (Photo: File photo)
HURGHADA, Egypt - 23 September 2017: Under the slogan of “Cinema for humanity”, the first edition of El Gouna Film Festival launched on Friday, September 22 with a star-studded red carpet event in the coastal resort town of El Gouna, which aired live exclusively via ON TV channel.
The opening ceremony featured a gathering of numerous Arab and international artists and filmmakers, including American actors Dylan McDermott, Michael Madsen and French actress Emmanuelle Béart.
The long-awaited festival opening ceremony started with the famous Egyptian band Fabrica, which performed a number of their songs, reviving international and Egyptian cinema.
“We are happy to have all of you with us to witness the first edition of the Festival,” Sameh Sawiris, El Gouna Film Festival co-founder, said at the beginning of his speech. Sawiris was keen to let regional and international artists know that the El Gouna Film Festival will honour true cinema and talents around the globe.
El Gouna Film Festival Founder and prominent businessman Naguib Sawiris started his speech by thanking everyone on the Executive Board for their relentless efforts, which helped launch such an important event.
“I have always been a movie lover and this is the main reason why I founded this festival. I am honoured to have worked with everyone on this experience and I look forward to a very successful first edition, which will help energize us to host the festival annually,” he said.
Egyptian film actor and Co-founder of El Gouna Film Festival Bushra Rozza appeared on the stage after Sawiris, praising all the international filmmaking figures that have made it all the way from USA and Europe to join the newly-born film festival in its first edition.
“We’ve been working with a vision to live up to the expectations for a film festival that was born to compete with other established international film festivals from day one,” recounted Rozza.
Rozza also pointed out that the festival is looking forward to welcome both national and international talents in upcoming years, hoping to continue honouring cinema through El Gouna Film Festival’s future editions.
She later also invited American actor Michael Madsen to come on stage and give a word to the audience.
“Things going on in the world nowadays, a lot of them are not good; the film festival is an opportunity for anybody to get together to celebrate the cinema, which is something I love the most,” Madsen said.
He stated that many people told him that it wasn’t safe to fly here, but since he has arrived to El Gouna, he found that all that is untrue and it was actually safe.
“Movies are an interesting way to reach immortality and operates as a perfect messenger to promote mutual understanding; hence, El Gouna Film Festival’s slogan was called ‘Cinema for Humanity,’” Madson said.
GFF Director Intishal Al Tamimi also staged the opening ceremony stating that the festival aims to provide relevant tools and networking opportunities to young filmmakers in the MENA region through its unique support platform called CineGouna, workshops, and other panels.
“The festival aims to serve as a bridge between Egyptian and international culture to share ideas, interests, and dreams,” he added.
Cinema legend Adel Emam was honoured in the opening ceremony on Friday, where he won the Career Achievement Award. A documentary about Emam’s famous films later screened, featuring testimonies of Egyptian stars on the prominent actor.
Several actors praised Emam in the filmed documentary including Mona Zaki, Ahmed Helmy, Ahmed Fahmy, Menna Shalaby, Ragaa El Gedawy, Essad Younes, among others. Egyptian cinema features more than 40 years of his success and recognizes him as the most famed film star in Egypt and the Arab world.
“I am overwhelmed with the honouring; I usually decline all the invitations to attend film festivals, however when my friend Naguib Sawiris asked me to come, I accepted because I trust him and believe so much in the efforts of Sawiris for the sake of cinema. I believe that a nation without art is a nation without conscience,” Emam said after receiving his award.
Emam later ended his brief speech by asking his two sons, the famous actor Mohamed Emam and acclaimed director Ramy Emam to come on stage and emphasizing his pride in them.
The festival also honoured Lebanese critic Ibrahim Al-Ariss during the opening ceremony for his important contributions to cinema and culture in the Middle East through his regional and international influential works.
Al-Ariss was granted the Career Achievement award by Tunisian-Egyptian movie star and Member of El Gouna Film Festival’s International Advisory Board Hend Sabry.
“El Gouna is one of the world’s most attractive spots for tourism and a great place to hold a film festival,’’ said Al-Ariss.
At the end of the opening ceremony, the festival screened the local premier of Egyptian film, Sheikh Jackson, directed by Amr Salama, and starring Ahmed el Fishawy, Ahmed Malek, Amina Khalil, Dorra, and Yasmine Raees, among others.
The film celebrated its international premier days ago during the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received excellent reviews.
The GFF ceremony was hosted by Egyptian television host Nardine Farag and co-hosted by Egyptian movie star and comedian, Ahmed Fahmy.