CAIRO – 20 September 2019: With hordes of stars, shiny spotlights and camera flashes, the 3rd edition of El Gouna Film Festival opened its curtains on September 19, with a slogan that stressed a deep connection between the movie industry and humanity, adding "Cinema for Humanity" as its permanent slogan.
El Gouna Film Festival, taking place in El Gouna’s Marina Theater, will run until September 27.
The grand opening of the 3rd edition of the festival has witnessed the participation of celebrities, filmmakers, directors and producers from various countries.
This festival was attended by festival founder Naguib Sawiris, El-Gouna founder Samih Sawiris, CEO and co-founder of the festival Amr Mansi, COO and festival co-founder Bushra Abdallah Rozza, festival co-founder Kamal Zadeh, and festival director Intishal Al-Timimi.
Mona Zaki, Ahmed el Fishawy, Amina Khalil, Rania Youssef, Ahmed Dawoud, Ola Roushdy, Karim Kassem, Amr Youssef, Kinda Alloush, Emy Samir Ghanem, Hassan el Raddad, Laila Elwi, Elham Shahin, Yousra, Eman el Assi and Mohamed Ramadan who attended the festival for the first time were the key celebrities who attended the opening ceremony.
Ramadan attendance carried a hidden message that his dispute with Bushra has ended.
The 2019’s creativity achievement prize was rewarded to Palestinian director and producer Mai Masri and the festival also commemorated Egyptian-Canadian Aladdin star Mena Massoud.
The opening ceremony presenter Mariam el Khoshet said that cinema gathered a lot of filmmakers tonight.
‘’ We are here today because we love cinema’’ recounted the other opening ceremony presenter Egyptian actor Aly Kassem.
The opening ceremony was inaugurated by a light comedy song by comedian Akram Hosny, namely “Cima”, about cinema and moviemaking throughout history and its contributions to human history and humanity.
‘’ I wish this festival will continue for 100 years’’ Hosny said.
‘’I asked co-founder of the festival Amr Mansi about whether he “really” asked Tamer Habib before assigning me to sing the opening ceremony song’’ Hosny joked with the Mansi and the attendees.
‘’This festival carry happiness and joy through its selected movies’’ recounted Al-Timimi. GFF Director Further added that this edition will also celebrate the centennial birth of the late acclaimed Egyptian writer and Journalist Ihsan Abd el Quddos.
‘’We tried to achieve the golden equation through choosing a selected group of movies’’ Al-Timimi said.
The festival director also announced that the festival will organize a big concert conducted by maestro Ahmed el Saidi.
‘’This edition has its own glow because we are celebrating Gouna’s 30th anniversary’’ the Egyptian actor and one of the opening ceremony presenters Karim Kassem said, stressing that for this reason this edition will be unique in all aspects.
‘’ I announce now a special agreement between UNICEF and El Gouna Festival’’ recounted the Egyptian star and UNICEF ambassador Mona Zaki. Zaki added that this agreement will be pertaining to children rights because humanity is the main aspect of El Gouna Film Festival.
‘’Cinema revive humanity and El Gouna Film Festival’s main slogan is humanity’’ Zaki added.
The famed Egyptian actress added as well that Egypt is considered the Hollywood of the Middle East.
‘’ Before I start to talk in English, I am happy that I returned back in Egypt the mother of the whole world as they describe it’’ Massud said in Arabic at the beginning of his speech.
Massoud thanked the artistic director of the festival Amir Ramsis for the effort he and his team exerted in the festival, and Samih and Naguib Sawiris for organising such important cinema festival.
‘’ Thank you for El Gouna Film Festival for welcoming me so warmly in this incredible moment, I say moment because that what I felt this festival represents, it is momentous, a time of excellence, influence, of lasting pride and empowerment. We are here today because we all believe in one thing that is the power of art. As an artists we have an extraordinary privilege to tell the stories of our people, our land and our culture, we are our stories. When I was growing up, I never saw people who looked like me on the big screen, there wasn’t room for my story. The EDA foundation that I started is about creating space for all our stories, it is about empowering artists from all over the world to tell their story or our story, because when we represent our cultures with sensitivity and truth, we foster society that support all people. I am here because I am confident in the talent we have to offer, we must continue to work to broaden the scope of our narratives.’’ Massoud said in his speech.
Massoud later said to the attendees in Arabic while joking: ‘’ you are too silent people, we are here in Egypt and I can’t believe that all this happen in Egypt.’’
‘’I am glad to present the first EDA award to Nesrine Eradi’’ said Massoud who chose Nesrine Eradi as the first filmmaker to receive such award.
In general Massoud said he was happy to have been chosen and to be in Egypt, noting that he has always been keen on practicing his mother tongue.
The Egyptian Ministry of Immigration has chosen Massoud as an ambassador for the “Etkallem Masry” (Speak Egyptian) initiative, which promotes the national identity among Egyptians abroad.
‘’We are honored to present the life achievement award to the Arab Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri’’ said acclaimed director Hany Abou Assad before giving Masri her award.
Syrian singer Faia Younan dazzled the festival attendees with a song commemorating our great artists who passed away. Ahmed el Fishawy’s tears came out when he saw the picture of his father late great actor Farouk el Fishawy.
Younan song managed to touch the hearts of all the attendees.
At the end of the opening ceremony the festival director announced the jury members of the festival who are:
The jury of the Feature Narrative Competition has the iconic Egyptian film director Khairy Beshara for president.
Beshara has been active in the film industry since the 1970s, and is considered one of the directors who redefined realism in Egyptian cinema.
He is also one of the first Arab directors to venture into digital filmmaking in the late 1990s.
Among the members is award-winning director and producer Mai Masri, one of the pillars of Palestinian and Arab cinema; Nashen Moodley, the director of the Sydney Film Festival, who served in juries at San Sebastian, Busan, Toronto, Rotterdam, Durban and Tokyo film festivals; and Resul Pookutty, Asia’s most feted sound technician, winner of an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing; and Stas Tyrkin, film critic and artistic director of the Dvizheniye National Debut Film Festival and the Strelka Film Festival.
The Feature Documentary Competition jury is headed by acclaimed Senegalese director, producer, screenwriter and actor Moussa Touré, founder of the Moussa Invite Festival in Senegal, which aims to promote African documentaries directed by African filmmakers.
The jury members include award-winning director and producer Anne Aghion, who is a panelist and juror at film festivals including Cannes and IDFA; Ludmila Cvikova, who was a programmer at the International Film Festival Rotterdam for 15 years, and has cooperated with numerous international festivals; Talal Derki, a renowned Syrian film director, producer and screenwriter who was nominated for an Academy Award in 2019; award-winning Egyptian costume designer Nahed Nasrallah, who has worked with many legendary directors such as Youssef Chahine and Yousry Nasrallah.
The Short Film Competition jury is headed by prominent Egyptian director Marwan Hamed, who received numerous awards and honors for his feature films such as ‘’The Yacoubian Building’’ and ‘’The Blue Elephant’’ .The jury also includes Colombian-Belgian film director and cinematographer Juanita Onzaga; as well as the director of the Tampere Film Festival, Jukka-Pekka Laakso, who has served as a jury member at numerous film festivals around the world.
In addition, two acclaimed figures from the Arab world are members of the Short Film Competition jury; Iraqi director, producer and screenwriter Mohamed Daradji, whose films have been selected for leading international film festivals; and Tunisian star Dorra Zarrouk, who starred in more than 30 films, theater plays and TV series across the region.
Additionally GFF welcomes the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) jury, which will award one feature-length film by an Asian director from the GFF program.
The NETPAC jury consists of Gulnara Abikeyeva, film critic and historian from Kazakhstan; Syrian-French film critic Nada Azhari; and Hasan Haddad, writer and film critic from Bahrain.
This year also marks GFF’s first time to host an International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) jury, who will award one feature-length Arab film from the lineup of the Festival.
FIPRESCI jury members are Karsten Kastelan, journalist and film critic from Germany; Mervat Omar, film critic from Egypt; and Frédéric Ponsard, film critic from France.
Lebanese dancing troupe Mayas gave an amazing performance at the end of the ceremony.
Around 80 movies will be screened during the festival, most of which have won prestigious awards, to compete for El Gouna Golden Star Prize, which will award the winner a trophy, a certificate and $50,000.