Youssef Rizkallah, the festival's artistic director, during the press conference held on Thursday, November 2, 2017. - Egypt Today
CAIRO – 3 November 2017: Cairo International Film Festival management held on Thursday, November 2, a press conference to announce the launch of the 39th edition in addition to all the details pertaining to this round.
The press conference was attended by DMC channel’s chairman Hisham Sulliman, the festival’s head Magda Wassef, and the festival’s artistic director Youssef Rizkallah in addition to a group of journalists and public figures.
Sulliman began his speech by remarking that they are seeking to reinitiate the effective role of one of Egypt’s most important soft powers; cinema.
“Egyptian cinema is one of the most important sources of Egyptian culture. There is a strong correlation between media and cinema. Media has always been the mirror of the film scene’s maturity and development, and when this scene was lost, the collective awareness of society was reduced. To restore this role, DMC channels are supporting and sponsoring CIFF,” Sulliman stated.
DMC channels are set to sponsor CIFF for the next three years.
Sulliman recounted that DMC supports Cairo International Film Festival to aid it in retrieving its strong status as one of the three most important film festivals in the whole world. CIFF claims the second rank after London Film Festival, while Stockholm Film Festival came in third place.
“CIFF is one of the top 11 festivals in the world, but where are we now? A question that needs a swift response,” Sulliman said.
He pointed out that CIFF along with DMC channels have begun re-connecting with international cinema to put Egyptian cinema on the global film map. “CIFF is the first international film festival in the Arab world, and the second in the world. Egypt who has a wide cinema history started its relationship with cinema in January 1896, when cinema had become a global phenomena in December 1895,” Sulliman recounted.
Sulliman also stated that DMC endeavors to support CIFF because it is considered a cultural and civilization façade to Egypt that supports much of the local cinema. The Egyptian cinema, as recounted by Sulliman, plays an important role in fighting terrorist and extremist thoughts because it informs people’s awareness and enhances cultural development in general. Cinema is a means of guidance and cultural enlightenment to the audience, Sulliman stressed.
“Cinema gives the viewer the ability to move from one place to another, he watches and compares what he watches with reality. The matter motivates the viewer to improve his social level, where the movies display scenes from different social standards,” Sulliman added.
Sulliman revealed the obstacles that faced the CIFF management while attempting to invite international actors to attend. “Some international celebrities asked to stay in hotels that can’t be burned down. Al Pacino asked for a private jet to take him from the U.S. to Egypt; the matter exceeded our budget,” he explained.
Wassef stated in her speech that inviting global stars to the festival was one of the major obstacles that faced them, but CIFF’s management overcame these obstacles with DMC channels’ aid, and the management will announce soon the international stars that will come to the festival. Wassef added that both the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony will take place in Al Manara Conferences Palace, located in the New Administrative Capital.
“The festival’s movies will not screen in Cairo Opera House’s Main Hall. We are searching now for another hall to substitute for the Main Hall,” Wassef added. She elaborated that film screenings will continue to take place in Cairo Opera House’s Small Hall, Hanager Theater, the American University in Cairo, the Cultural Creative Artistic Center and Odeon cinemas.
The cinema critic Ahmed Shawky, director of AFAC (Arab Films Competition), said that “even though Arabic cinema is distinguished in the field, it usually passes through difficult periods every now and then.”
AFAC contains eight prominent movies, some of which have received distinguished awards like the Moroccan film “Sweat Rain” directed by Hakim Belabbes, which is a participant in the Toronto Film Festival and dozens of other international festivals. The Palestinian film “Ghost Hunting,” directed by Raed Andoni, winner of the best documentary film at Berlin Film Festival, is also among the films featured, Shawky explained.
In terms of the Arab movies that will screen for the first time in the festival, Shawky recounted that there is the Syrian film “The Bees' Way” by renowned director Abellatif Abdelhamid, one of the most prominent Syrian directors; Lebanese film “Mahbas” directed by Sophie Boutros, one of the most successful Lebanese films this year, in addition to the Kuwaiti movie “Serb Hamam.” The Arab film competition has a jury committee that hosts Egyptian photographing manager Ahmed Morsy and Tunisian actress Rym Ben Messaoud.
Rizkallah said that the festival will host about 120 filmmakers who have films participating in the festival. “The festival will celebrate International Women’s Day which is on November 25,” Rizkallah added.
Rizkallah announced that the official international competition contains 15 movies until now and they are going to add another movie totaling 16 films. “There is no Egyptian movie that is competing in the Official International Competition; the matter truly reflects the crisis the Egyptian cinema is currently suffering from,” Rizkallah added.
He elaborated that they searched extensively for an Egyptian movie that would be up to par for the competition; however, the only movie that could have participated, “Photocopy,” couldn’t be chosen because it previously participated in El Gouna Film Festival.
“There was another Egyptian movie that was suitable for participation but its makers preferred to have it participate in Dubai International Film Festival because they supported the movie,” Rizkallah said. He added that Arab participation in the Official International Competition will consist of the Tunisian film “Tunis by Night” by Elyes Baccar only, for its first international screening outside Tunisia.
“CIFF management chose to screen the American movie ‘Mountain Between Us’ in the opening ceremony of the festival which stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba,” Rizkallh said.
The veteran Egyptian actor and the former head of CIFF, Hussein Fahmy, will be the jury committee head of the International Official Competition, Rizkallah announced. He added that Australia will be this edition’s guest of honor.
The cinema critic and the director of critics' week competition, Ramy Abdel Razek, said that the competition includes seven movies, all under the theme of “Women as the World’s Key.”
“We were keen on choosing the movies that preserve geographic diversity, so we chose one movie from each of the following countries: France, Britain, Denmark, USA, Iceland, Lithuania and India.”
Cinema critic and the director of Cinema of Tomorrow (short-movies international competition), Mohamed Atef, said that the competition includes 29 movies among which is the Egyptian movie “Haga Saaea’” (A Cold Drink), directed by the Egyptian Amroush Badr. “The films in the competition all come from different countries and they all discuss different topics and ideas,” Atef recounted.
Wassef pointed out that the 39th edition of the festival will honor the great late cinema critic Samir Farid. “The festival’s management is preparing a program to honor a number of late distinguished filmmakers such as the great Egyptian director Mohamed Kamel el Kaliouby and the veteran Lebanese director John Shamoun,” Wassef added.
The festival’s management also decided to choose the Egyptian mega star Youssra to be this year's honorary president of the festival. The festival will screen 175 films this year from 53 countries.
Renowned comedian Samir Ghanem is also set to receive the Faten Hamama Honorary and Excellence award; becoming the first comedic actor to receive the award.
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