22 Egyptian Movies That Made it to International Film Festivals in 2016
While the Egyptian cinema industry may not be at its prime at home, Egyptian movies have been garnering massive recognition internationally in various regions.
Egypt has always been known for its cinematic prowess especially throughout the Middle East, and that's why Egyptian filmmakers have been getting the props they deserve in the international scene by their participation in international film festivals and the awards they were able to rack up. Here's a list of our Egyptian global achievers in the movie scene:
This claustrophobic drama that was the first to be filmed completely inside a police deportation vehicle has garnered massive praise since its release, starting with a praise letter from the great Tom Hanks to the director of the movie, Mohamed Diab. This movie did not just strike a chord with people of all stripes for its extremely realistic portrayal of the political controversy within Egyptian society with its smooth and fastidious dialogue, but also it was able to grant itself success within the international film community. First and foremost, the movie has been selected to represent Egypt at the Oscars in 2017. It was also used as an opening to the Cannes Festival's 'Un Certain Regard', a section of the festival's official selection. The movie was screened at the Kairali Theatre, one the of the venues of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), and won three awards at Valladolid Film Festival, Spain's largest film festival.
This blockbuster that sparked a checkered-shirt frenzy among Egyptian teens was of course on top of the list of Egyptian successes in the film realm. The movie that shows a lecture given by a social psychology specialist on the stages of love was selected with Nawara as the opening and closing films at the 6th Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden, where it competed for the Best Feature Film Award. It also scooped up the Audience Award at the 21st Annual Arabian Sights Film Festival in Washington, which is organised by the Washington DC International Film Festival. On top of that, the movie participated in the Anab d'Or in the Feature Film Competition at the 2nd Mediterranean Film Festival of Annaba (FAFM) in Algeria and screened at the Arab Camera Festival in Rotterdam.
Inspired by the Carl Deyer's classic, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), this documentary touches upon the issue of female emancipation in Egypt's post-revolutionary society. Through interviews with several women, including many artists and a poetic voiceover, the film explores the daily struggles females endure in Egypt. The movie was screened at the 13th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) that took place in December, which was the movie's MENA premiere.
The thing that caught the attention of the film industry worldwide was that this movie is the first ever movie in Nubian. In this amazing film, director Mohamed Hisham was able to capture the untold stories of Nubia in its own mother tongue, which seems to be on the verge of perishing due to grotesque neglect and marginalisation. For its authenticity, the movie has sparked enthusiasm worldwide, from Jaipur Film Festival in India to Afrika Film Festival in Belguim, 12 Months Film Festival in Romania, and London Film Festival in the UK where it was awarded Best Cinematography for a Foreign Film.
Mawlana (The Preacher)
On the 10th of December, Mawlana got a special evening gala screening at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). Based on Ibrahim Eissa's novel that carries the same name and directed by Magdy Ahmed Ali, the movie depicts the journey of a young Muslim cleric who moves from leading prayers to becoming a well-known TV personality, shedding light on a phenomenon that for a long time has been prevalent among sheikhs – showing the ugly face of this phenomenon and the dirty games of power happening behind the scenes in the sheikh's life.
Har Gaf Sayfan (Dry Hot Summers)
Directed by Sherif Elbendary, this 30-minute film was able to garner wide attention from film festivals around the globe. It's the tale of two lonely Egyptians who meet by chance on a burning hot summer day in Cairo. Here they start a journey that breaks their respective routines, taking them down a path of self-discovery. The short film had its world premiere at the DIFF's 12th edition in December 2015. It was also selected to open the 18th edition of the Ismailia International Film Festival for Documentaries and Shorts last April. Moreover, the film won the Robert Bosch Stiftung Film Prize for International Cooperation at a gala held during Berlinale Talents, a six-day creative summit for up-and-coming filmmakers at the Berlin Film Festival that took place last February. It was also screened at the Dhofar Arab Film Forum and was chosen to participate at the Carthage International Film Festival back in October.
This movie has won awards on several fronts; Menna Shalabi won the Best Actress Award at Morocco’s Tetouan International Mediterranean Film Festival and the 12th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), and the movie itself won the top award in the Feature Film category at the Tetouan Festival. The movie portrays a maid working for a wealthy family in Cairo, and in the midst of this she "explores the failure of a certain kind of revolutionary romanticism," according to movie producer Mahmoud Safy El-Din. The movie was screened at the 23rd Munich Film Festival in June, and was chosen with Egyptian blockbuster Hepta as the opening and closing films of the 6th Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden.
According to director Romani Saad, this movie is a trip with a camera through the Egyptian slums. The film examines the lives of street children, throughout which they talk about their struggles and confess to the bad deeds they find themselves committing, including looting shops during the January 25 revolution, which flooded the director with criticism for the profanity included in their testimonials. The movie participated in the Tetouan International Mediterranean Film Festival.
In the Last Days of the City
This co-production between Egypt, Germany, the U.K., and the U.A.E. is a fictional exploration of Cairo's atmosphere amidst the transformations Egypt was undergoing during the Arab Spring. The movie had its world premiere at the Berlinale where it won the Caligari film prize. It was the only work by an Egyptian director to take part in the 46th annual Berlinale Forum. The film was also screened in Italy at the Pesaro Film Festival, at Olhar Cinema – Curitiba Film Festival in Brazil, and at Malta's Valletta Film Festival, and won the Grand Prix at the Polish MFF T-Mobile Nowe Horyzonty Film Festival in Wroclaw.
Who Killed the Armenians
This documentary on the Armenian genocide was directed by Egyptian satellite TV anchor Myriam Zaki and director Mohamed Hanafi. Through rare footage and documents from World War I, the film examines different sides of the story. At the New York Film Festival, the movie won the Audience Award and the Vanya Exerjian: Empowering Women and Girls Award, which went to Myriam Zaki.
Om Ghayeb (Mother of the Unborn)
In spite of its international recognition, this extremely humanistic movie was only screened one single time in Egypt by Zawya, according to director Nadine Salib. In a small village south of Assiut, it's a tradition for women who suffer infertility to be called Om Ghayeb (mother of the unborn); Salib chose this as the title of her feature-length documentary about the life of Hanan, a woman who has been waiting for a child for 12 years. The movie participated in the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival, and Yamagata Film Festival in Japan – all of which are very popular festivals for documentaries. It also participated in Carthage and Abu Dhabi festivals, where it won the Best Documentary Award at the latter. It also received the Peter Wintonick Special Jury Award for First Appearance at the IDFA 2014, the first prize for Best Documentary in Mizna Twin cities, and the award for best documentary in AfryCam Film Festival.
Ali Mea'za (Ali the Goat)
This movie portrays a guy (Ali) who suffers the loss of his fiancée and, refusing to accept her death, he starts believing she has been reincarnated in a goat. This results in unending gossip in his neighbourhood, which leads his mother to take him to a healer. Ali then meets a man named Ibrahim with whom he bonds and goes on a journey of self-exploration in the company of Ali's goat. The movie had its MENA premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).
Abadan Lam Nakon Atfal (We Have Never Been Children)
Directed by Egyptian filmmaker Mahmoud Soliman and a co-production of Egypt, the UAE, Qatar, and Lebanon, this movie won the Special Jury Prize in the Documentary Films category. It premiered at the 12th Dubai International Film Festival, where it won the Best Muhr Non-Fiction Feature award. It also participated in the Tetouan International Mediterranean Film Festival in March.
Hayat Tahra (Tahra's Life)
This movie was directed by Mohanad Diab who just recently won the Best Short Film award at the Delhi International Film festival for his movie "AH!", and was screened among 10 Egyptian films at the Shorts Corner at the 68th Cannes International Film Festival, where it premiered, and at Oman's Dhofar Arab Film Forum. This motivation-boosting film shows how a rural woman was able to raise EGP 150,000 from several small projects.
Haram El Gasad (Sins of the Flesh)
Directed by Khaled El Hagar, this film struggled with Egyptian censorship for its dominant political theme, and was then only allowed for viewers aged 18+. Nonetheless, it was met with fiery critiques. The whole film was shot in a farm in the desert using only natural lights, like fire and lamps. It paints the social disruption that took place during the revolution through four people living in this desert and listening to revolution unfold through the radio. It participated in Carthage International Film Festival within the long feature film section, and was selected for screening at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Rabie Shetwy (Wintry Spring)
Directed by Mohamed Kamel, this indie short movie shows how a pre-teen called Nour starts to experience tensions with her father with whom she lives alone as she starts getting her period and can't tell him. The movie was selected for screening at the ShorTS festival, which selects films shorter than 20 minutes that have garnered one or more awards in 2015, which the movie did by winning the best short and best actor awards from the Italian festival Fotogramma d'Oro and the Best Short Film Award at the Sose International Film Festival.
Al-Nossour Al-Saghira (The Young Eagles' Association)
Directed by Mohamed Rashad, the movie had its world premiere at the 13th Dubai International Film Festival. The film tells the story of the son of an everyday Egyptian worker who lives in Alexandria and dreams of being a filmmaker in Cairo. He ends up meeting two people whose parents he felt had more purpose in their lives than his own father, them being left wing activists, which stimulates Mohammed to search for answers to his contemplation.
Al Ma'a Wel Khodra Wel Wagh El Hasan (Water, Greenery, and a Beautiful Face)
Directed by Yousri Nasrullah, this movie depicted the issues of traditional marriage, class, and restrained love through the focus on the life of an Egyptian family. It was screened in the Locarno International Film Festival competition that included 17 movies from Greece, Portugal, Germany, Italy and several other European countries.
Directed by Mohamed Hammad, this indie drama tells the tale of Iman, an excessively conservative girl who lives her life in absolute conformity to the social norms with all her focus set on nurturing her younger sister after both parents are lost. The movie made it to the "Directors of the Present" competition at the Locarno International Film Festival where it premiered. It was also the first Arab movie to ever be screened at the Singapore International Film Festival, in addition to being screened at Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur (FIFF) in Belgium.
Bara fe El-Share (Outside on the Street)
This independent film directed by Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk shows in 72 minutes how workers lived prior to the January 25 Revolution and the reasons that led to the outburst. It garnered the Best Feature Film Award at the 5th Latin-Arab International Film Festival (Festival Internacional De Cine Latino Árabe) in Buenos Aires and was screened within the official selection at the 26th edition of the Carthage in Tunisia, in addition to its featuring at the German Pavilion at the Venice.
Directed and produced by Ghada Ali, the film takes one on an emotional trip inside the human self especially to examine how we value people and objects. The movie participated in the Fez International Film festival of Cinema & Education in Morocco, OZARK Shorts Film Festival in Missouri in the United States, GATFEST Film Festival in Jamaica, and was selected for viewing at the Asia International Youth Short-Film Exhibition in Wenzhou, China, The Coluor International Film Festival in India, the International Women's Film Festival in Kabul. The film also won many awards including the Official Selection for the Biennial Edition of Ciné Women of America and the Best Cinematography award at FILMSAAZ of India.
Before the Spring
In 2008, the makers of the film came to Egypt to tell the stories of metalheads within Egypt's conservative society, where the characters of their movie were metalhead youths of all backgrounds, including the children of Egyptian politicians and the first female metal band in the Muslim World. With the outbreak of the revolution, the movie gives an overview of the new horizons the rebellious atmosphere triggered by the revolution might open for the characters of the movie. The movie won the New York Festival's Grand Prize for Best Narrative Feature Award.
Osbou we Yomen (One Week and Two Days)
This intriguing indie portrays the life of a loving couple as they start facing difficulties over the decision of giving birth. Directed by Marwan Zain, the film made it to the competition in the 13th Dubai International Film Festival's (DIFF) Muhr Shorts category.
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