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Egypt Makes It Big at This Year's Berlin International Film Festival

Several Egyptian and Arab films and personalities were heavily involved at this year's Berlinale.

We know that Valentine’s Day has been dominating the headlines as of late and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of corniness once a year, but there's some other stuff happening that's pretty cool. This week is the Berlinale, aka the Berlin International Film Festival, which started on the 9th of February runs until the 19th of February, and we are both surprised and pretty thrilled at how large the Egyptian presence at the festival is this year.

On Sunday, Arab filmmakers Ahmed Saleh, Nada Riyadh and Yakout Elhababi were the announced winners of the Robert Bosch Stiftung Film Prize for their short fiction film, The Trap. The Trap is about a woman trapped in a relationship she can’t escape, set in a shabby Egyptian seaside resort. Riyadh directed and wrote the film, and Saleh and Elhabibi produced. 

On the jury of the award was Mariam Khoury, president of the always amazing Panorama European Film Festival. They will be awarded three grants, worth 60,000 euros each, meant to promote co-production between Arab and German filmmakers.

“It’s also a story set in a particular location, isolated and desolated, at very specific moment of the Egyptian contemporary society. We are impressed by the artistic presentation of this project,” reads the jury’s statement about The Trap.

Egyptian film critic and author, Samir Farid will receive the ‘Camera Award' tomorrow. One of the more prestigious awards in the festival, it is given to institutions or individuals who have contributed greatly to the festival or the film industry in general. Farid is a very important figure in the Arab film world, having translated over 60 books and participated in film juries at several important festivals, including the Venice Film Festival. Farid received the Cannes Film Festival Gold Medal twice in ‘97 and then again in ‘00. The Lifetime Achievement Award at the Osian’s Cinefan Festival in New Delhi in 2012 and at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2013.

One Plus One Makes a Pharoah’s Chocolate Cake is one of two Egyptian films showcasing at the festival this year. Produced by Alexandria-based studio, Fig Leaf, it is a documentary featuring Islam Chipsy, a pioneer of mahraganat music alongside Swiss electronic artist, Aisha Devi. Directed by Marouan Omara and Islam Kamal, the film will premiere at the festival. The other film being showcased is Seif Tagreby (Experimental Summer) which premiered in Egypt in 2016 only to be confiscated by the government for unexplained reasons upon its release.

It makes us very happy that Egyptian and Arab films are getting this much attention at the festival and it makes us optimistic about Arab involvement in other events of the same ilk.


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