Egypt’s biggest and oldest cinematic festival, the CIFF ended on a high note during its closing ceremony when winners were announced in the presence of an excited crowd of filmmakers, stars, journalists, and media professionals. As with every year, the event would hold a series of competitions under different categories to judge a wide variety of films including the International Critics’ Week Competition and the Short Film Competition. This year, with over 20 Arab films taking part in the festival, we wanted to celebrate the special selection that was honored and awarded for its excellency in storytelling.
Palestinian director Firas Khoury’s debut feature film Alam made its official premiere in the Middle East and North Africa at the widely acclaimed CIFF. It chronicles the story of Tamer, a Palestinian teenager who likes to keep a distance from political matters but all that changes when he meets Maysaa, a fiery and outspoken new classmate who re-ignites Tamer’s political passion. He ends up joining her initiative dubbed “Operation: Flag” and takes part in his first-ever demonstration during the Israeli Independence Day, all in an effort to get his school to replace their Israeli flag with that of a Palestinian flag.
During its screening, the film received thundering applause from the audience which struck a chord with Khoury who couldn’t attend the premiere but was honored to have the film celebrated and loved by the cinematic community. When it came to the closing ceremony, the film won the International Competition by receiving the esteemed Golden Pyramid Award for Best Film. It was also honored with the Youssef Sherif Rizq Award which included a cash prize of over 15 thousand dollars.
A film replete with captivating imagery is Bassem Breche’s feature directorial debut Riverbed which explores the clash and fall of a tumultuous relationship between a mother and daughter within a small village in Lebanon. Every shot in the film is akin to a still photograph whether it’s the light filtering through the blinds of a bedroom as we see the mother waking up or unique shots of mirrors from odd angles.
Its powerful cinematography and narrative propelled it to the forefront as it received the honor of winning the Horizons of Arab Cinema Competition and nabbing the Salah Abu Seif Award during the closing ceremony.
Far From the Nile
Music unites and brings together musicians from across the African continent in Sherief Elkatsha’s beautiful musical documentary Far From The Nile. 12 African musicians from seven countries along the Nile river leave their homes and take part in a 100-day tour of America. They are all part of the Nile project and have a shared aspiration of shedding light on the conflict over the increase in water scarcity across the continent. Facing their cultural differences and musical disputes, the group had to put an effort into remaining united for their shared cause.
Such a unique take on the relationship between African countries and how they used the power of music to unite and stand together wowed audiences and the jury at the CIFF, earning the documentary the honor of winning the Best Non-Fiction Film Award.
My Girl Friend
A play on gender roles and the intricacies of romantic relationships is what Kawthar Younis’ short film My Girl Friend is all about. In a desperate attempt at reviving the intimacy of their relationship, Ali follows his girlfriend’s suggestion and begins to experiment and put their relationship to the test to the point that both their gender identities become blurred.
Having already been part of the esteemed Venice Film Festival, this Egyptian film has been making waves in the cinematic world. With CIFF, the film continued to gain strong recognition and appraisal, propelling it to win the Jury Special Award as part of the Short Film Competition.
Making its world premiere at CIFF, Ahmed Abdalla’s feature film 19B brings the life of a doorman to the forefront as he goes by his day guarding an old abandoned villa. His life does take a special turn when he stumbles upon a person across the street attempting to trespass on the property and that is when he is put in the situation of having to face his fears and approach the trespasser. It’s a film that explores two worlds, the isolated quiet ongoings of the doorman and the bustling life outside along Egypt’s streets.
Helming not one but two special awards at the closing ceremony, 19B proved to be an exceptional addition to this year’s CIFF. It bagged the Fipresci Award as well as the Best Arab Film Award which included a cash prize of 10,000 dollars.
With the event coming to a close, festivities continue as many of the films that took part in the 9-day film festival including Swimmers which just landed on Netflix. Fans can grab a big tub of popcorn and marvel at the latest cinematic films made by rising as well as renowned Arab filmmakers.