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27 Films - and 1 Celebrity - You Can't Miss at This Year's Cairo International Film Festival

This year's edition of the Cairo International Film Festival is going to be the biggest one yet, with more than 170 films participating from all over the world, so we had our resident movie nerd put together of the flicks you absolutely can't miss.

Fun fact: other countries that aren't the US make incredible movies that aren't in English. I know, shocker. Every year, hundreds of movies are made that could easily put Hollywood to shame but they never get enough attention because audiences are so focused on when the next shitty Fast and Furious movie is going to be out. 

If you've only been watching films that come out of studios in California, you have no idea how much you're missing out. Some of the best movies in the world come out of the Arab world, Asia, and Europe, the birth place of film, and this year's edition of the Cairo International Film Festival is bringing all of them together from the 21st to the 30th of November in a cinematic extravaganza.

The renowned festival, which is actually the only international competitive feature film festival recognised by the FIAPF in the Arab world Africa, is now in its 39th incarnation and this year they're bringing some cool new elements to the table. For starters, aside from the incredible movies being screened, they'll be holding a fashion police segment for the opening and closing ceremonies as they country's glitziest stars get all glammed up and descend on that notorious red carpet. The show will be hosted by none other than Yasmine Yeya, the veritable queen of bridal couture in Egypt, Susan Sabet, sartorial powerhouse and editor of Pashion magazine, and Noha Abdelaziz, DMC presenter.

Egyptian actor Asser Yassin will be MCing the opening ceremony, and - we're imagining every guy who lived through the 90s is going to have a heart attack - Elizabeth Hurley will be in attendance. 

But back to the movies. This year's festival is going to have 4 major competitions; the Official Selection for Feature and Documentary Film: International Competition; Horizon of New Arab Cinema Competition for Feature and Documentary Films; International Critic's Week Competition for Feature and Documentary Films; and the Cinema of Tomorrow International Competition (CTIC) for Short Films. There's going to be 60 movies in the Festival of Festival category, 36 movies participating in the International Panorama category, and 8 movies participating in the New Egyptian Cinema category. There's even going to be two spotlight categories on French and Australian film. 

I know, it can be a b**** to navigate, that's why I filtered out only the best movies that you absolutely have to catch this year.

The Mountain Between Us - USA

This year's opening film and one of the official selections for the International Competition. Directed by Palestinian born Hany Abu-Assad and staring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, this movie is about how two strangers get stranded on a remote, snow-covered mountain after a tragic train crash. When they realise help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across hundreds of miles of wilderness, pushing one another to endure and discovering strength they never knew possible.

A Prominent Patient - Czech Republic, Slovakia

After the German Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, a flamboyant diplomat finds his nerves are shattered and he buries himself in a mental hospital, struggling with the will to survive. Under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Stein, a German emigré, Masaryk re-lives the diplomatic battles leading to the outbreak of the Second World War and tries to overcome his enemies inside and out.

Apricot Groves - Armenia 

Aram, an Iranian-Armenian young man who immigrated to the US in his childhood, returns to Armenia for the first time to propose to an Armenian girlfriend. Aram sees many cultural, religious, and national differences on the one day trip, but harder obstacles are ahead.

At War for Love - Itlay

This one is for the hopeless romantic history nerds. In 1943 New York, in a luxurious restaurant a young Sicilian emigrant faces a troubled love story. Arturo, 35-year-old, barely speaks English, falls in love with Flora, the young niece of Alfredo, the restaurant owner. Arturo and Flora are deeply in love and dream to get married but need her father’s blessing. Without any means, Arturo enrolls the US Army and embarks to Sicily, where Flora’s father lives.

Coffee - Italy, China, Belgium 

Three different stories from three different parts of the world that have absolutely nothing in common except the coffee they drink. 

Emilia: Breaking Free - Lithuania 

Another one for the history nerds. The tale of Emilia, a young girl from the countryside of the small country who moves to the capital city just as their revolution was starting. But everything takes an unexpected turn. Having come to Kaunas with what is perhaps the greatest secret of her life, Emilia has to fight not only for her own fate, but for that of her friends’ as well. And life in Kaunas is far from what she had dreamed of. But she is prepared to take on anything for the sake of what she believes in.

Hostages - Georgia, Russia, Poland

In the Soviet Georgia of 1983, preparations for Nika and Ana's wedding are in full swing and it's a big day for both of their elite families. For the newlyweds and their friends, however, the celebrations are in fact part of a cover-up, as they plot an audacious escape from the Soviet Union. They plan to flee their claustrophobic daily lives, discover the free world and break out from their parents' stifling worldview. The day after the wedding, Nika and Ana decide to move forward with their riskiest plan yet: hijacking a local flight from Tbilisi to Batumi and forcing it to land in Turkey, the closest country to Georgia.

Little Harbor - Slovak Republic, Czech Republic

Ten years old and living with a mother who is not yet ready to be a parent, Jarka is pushed by her desire to love and form a family to the point where she finds herself giving shelter to two abandoned twin babies. This one is heavy.

Pop Aye - Thailand, Singapore

Probably one of the funnier movies playing this year. On a chance encounter, a disenchanted architect bumps into his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok. Excited, he takes his elephant on a journey across Thailand, in search of the farm where they grew up together.

Sicilian Ghost Story - Itlay, France, Switzerland

In a little Sicilian village at the edge of a forest, Giuseppe, a 13-year-old boy, vanishes. Luna, his classmate who loves him, refuses to accept his mysterious disappearance. She rebels against the code of silence and collusion that surrounds her, and to find him she descends into the dark world which has swallowed him up and which has a lake as its mysterious entrance. Only their indestructible love will be able to bring her back along.

The Basics of Killing - Slovenia, Serbia

Sounds like a murder story, actually isn't. The Basics of Killing is a story about the downfall of an idyllic relationship between parents who falls apart entirely due to lack of respect as a result of the job loss and the consequent financial ruin. As the story progresses, the burden that the parents are unable to carry is slowly beginning to fall more and more onto the children’s shoulders.

Solitaire - Jordon, Lebanon, Egypt

Therese is the wife of a mayor of a small village in Lebanon. The highly anticipated visit of the family of her daughter’s suitor causes much excitement in her life. Therese’s brother, who was killed by a Syrian explosion 20 years ago, still features heavily in the family’s home and looms large through photographs all around the house. Unable to contain her joy, Therese even shares her happiness with her deceased brother – through his photographs – until she discovers that her long-awaited guests are from Syria.

Devil's Freedom - Mexico

In Mexico, as cartels thrive and grow ever more ruthless, the phenomenon of violence has emerged as a tragic feature of the country’s life and subconscious. Through firsthand testimonies of victims as well as perpetrators, Devil’s Freedom explores how fear and uncertainty have penetrated every level of Mexican society, asking what meaning is to be found in this violence and the profound fear it engenders. One of those movies that makes you stop and think

My Son - France

Julien travels constantly for work. His perpetual absence from home has wrecked his marriage. During a stopover in France, he gets a message from his very distraught ex-wife, Mathys that their seven-year-old has disappeared. Julien begins the search for his son. He will stop at nothing to get the boy back. Taken, is that you?

The Elephant and the Butterfly - Belgium

After five years away, Antoine returns to Brussels, determined to confront his past. He knocks at the door of Camille, the woman he loved and the mother of their daughter Elsa whom he has never met. When he arrives, Camille is about to leave on an important business trip. She is waiting for the babysitter who is late. Camille panics and asks Antoine to wait a few minutes for her so that she will not miss her flight. Caught off-guard, Antoine agrees. He never imagines that the babysitter is not going to appear and that he will end up alone with his daughter for three days.

The Man Who Looks Like Me - Estonia

A music critic Hugo, suffering from post-divorce depression, is just about to rebuild his life when his jazz musician father Raivo arrives at his door unexpectedly. Spiteful old man announces that he will soon come to his end and expects his only son to take care of him. When an attractive psychotherapist enters the men’s lives, the father and son duo begin to compete for her attention. The old prankster manages to create a number of embarrassing moments in an effort to ruin Hugo’s romantic plans.

Under the Family Tree - Deutschland, Poland

During a self-knowledge seminar in the Polish Sudeten mountains, sixteen-year-old Isabell meets German family constellation therapist Einar. While Isabell is first being attracted by the charismatic man, mood changes when a female seminar participant vanishes without a trace. Bit by bit Isabell gets plagued by a scary suspicion – which seems to concern her personally.

Photocopy - Egypt

Probably one of Egypt's better movies in the past ten years and the winner of best film at the Gouna International Film Festival. Mahmoud’s life is a ‘photocopy’ of millions of others. He worked as a data-entry typist in a governmental job, and was never married. He lives a traditional life. When he settles for early retirement, he buys a nearby store and sets up 'Mahmoud’s Photocopy' centre. Here he makes photocopies, and typed up documents. One day, a student asks him to type up a report on the extinction of dinosaurs. Mahmoud can’t help but begin to see some strange parallels with the state of his own life. Driven by a desire to change the depressing reality that his own lifestyle is becoming extinct, he starts a journey that leads him to revolt against his traditional life

Ali, The Goat, and Ibrahim - Egypt

This is the strange love story of a young man, Ali, living in a rough neighborhood. He travels across Egypt on the recommendation of a psychic along with, Ibrahim notoriously known for hearing voices in his head, which drive him mad. Their journey turns into a voyage of friendship and self-discovery.

Sheikh Jackson - Egypt

What rock have you been living under if you still haven't heard of this film? This movie has gotten all the hype this year, and if you still haven't seen it, you definitely should. June 25, 2009, the news of Michael Jackson's death, took the world by storm affecting many, especially a preacher who was dubbed Jackson during his school days. But, what does a preacher have in common with the King of Pop? More importantly, can he now go back to his normal life, or will his memories and relationships with his loved ones raise the most prominent question in his mind? Is he the Sheikh, Jackson, or both? 

Girlhood - France

Oppressed by her family’s harsh situation, dead-end school prospects and having to live by the boys’ rules in the neighbourhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted into the gang, hoping that this will be a way to freedom.

Bird People - France

In an international hotel near Roissy airport on the outskirts of Paris, a computer engineer coping with a huge amount of professional and emotional pressure decides to radically change the direction of his life. A few hours later, a young hotel housekeeper, who is going through an in-between period of her life, finds her existence turned upside down by a supernatural event.

Ali's Wedding - Australia 

An extremely funny flick that hits close to home. After a reckless lie sets off a catastrophic chain of events, Ali, the son of a Muslim cleric, finds himself caught between his sense of duty towards his family and following his heart.

Paper Planes - Australia

An imaginative family film about a young Australian boy’s passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.

Lion - Australia, UK, US

The Oscar nominated film that made everyone cry. Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

Killing Jesus - Columbia, Argentina

Paula, 22-year-old girl, witnesses the murder of her father, a political science professor. From a distance she catches a glimpse of the murderer’s face. Paula and her family face the ignorance and ineffectiveness of government agencies, which show no interest in investigating the case. They soon realise that they are just another number on the long list of Colombia’s victims. A few months after the murder, Paula accidentally crosses paths with a young man, Jesus who she thinks she recognises as her father’s killer. Paula decides to get closer to Jesus to be able to cross the moral line and kills him.

The Way Satiation - Vietnam

Winner of basically everything in any Asian film festival. Phuoc wanders aimlessly and stops at the restaurant White Nigh owned by the boss. Slowly, Phuoc gets involved in and discovers more about the lives of the people who work in this restaurant. Sharing the living space and working life with Phuoc is Ahmed and Mien. In the crumbling space of the restaurant, there is also Xiem, the wife of the boss, and a beautiful woman named Chu, the boss’s daughter. Phuoc arrives, makes friends with Mien and Chu. Jealousy, payback, and violence between Mien and Phuoc take place in their little love triangle. The boss finally finds out about his daughter’s secret sex life with the workers. The imperious father does an unexpected thing.

Check out the festival's website for more information. Also be sure to keep up with them on their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram @cairofilms.