Father Youssef Mazloum did not mince his words on the closing night of the 56th Egyptian Catholic Centre Cinema Festival, the oldest film festival in Egypt, held this year from 15 to 22 February under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. “Artistic creation is a gift from God that man should develop according to human values for the good of the humanity,” Fr Youssef told the audience.
Fr Botrous Danial told Watani that the films were selected according to human, social and artistic considerations. “The participating films should not include unnecessary sex or violence shots, and must not devalue any religion or specific policy,” he said.
This year the centre chose six films produced in 2007. The six were: Morgan Ahmed Morgan starring Adel Imam, Taymour wa Shafiqa starring Ahmed al-Saqqa and Mona Zaki, Qas wa Lazq (Cut and Paste) with Hanan Turk and Sherif Mounir, Fi shaqet Masr al-Gadeeda (In a Flat in Heliopolis) with Khaled Abul-Naga and Ghada Adel, al-Turbiny by Hend Sabry and Sherif Mounir, and Keda Reda with Ahmed Helmy.
The opening night was held on Friday 15 February and included a tribute to veteran comedians Sayed Zayyan and Muhammad al-Dafrawy, who were never before honoured despite long and remarkable acting careers.
Sayed Zayyan’s award was accepted by his son on behalf of his father. “I thank the centre with all my heart for honouring my father,” he said. “It comes at a good time, since he has been depressed by a long illness and feels neglected and forgotten. I believe the award will help him make a quick recovery.”
All in the name of love
Each film was screened twice a day during the festival to give more people the chance to attend and evaluate the films. A seminar was held after the second performance, attended by the actors, the writer and the director. The audience took part in a daily poll to nominate the best film, with Fi Shaqet Masr al-Gadeeda scoring highest. The film tells the story of a romantic young Upper Egyptian woman who travels to Cairo to search for her beloved music teacher, who has moved into a flat in Helioplis or Masr al-Gadeeda.
In the seminar held after the screening of Taymour we Shafiqa most of the audience said how much they loved the film, and some said they had seen it several times. This despite the film being sharply criticised for advocating that women give up lucrative careers and become stay-at-home wives—all in the name of love. Jury member Magda Zaki said in its defence that the film was just depicting real life; how women in Eastern communities are always the ones to make a sacrifice. She added that sometimes it happens that when one loves deeply one can make a sacrifice easily, no matter what the cost. Taymour we Shafiqa and its screenwriter Tamer Habib received an award of honour.
Most films were well attended by the public and journalists except for the two performances of Qas wa Lasq which won the best film award in the Cairo International Film Festival of 2007. It was clear that the audience had not understood the message of the film, which, according to director Samir Seif also a member of the jury, was not at all surprising. Frequently, he said, films which are celebrated for artistic or critical reasons do not win public acclaim; some are even box office flops. Hala Khalil, the writer and director of Qas wa Lasq was awarded a certificate of honour.
Ahmed Helmy won the best actor award for his role in Keda Reda in which he played three completely different comic characters. The auditorium was full for each of the film’s two performances, and some who had attended the first screening demanded an invitation to attend the second. The ensuing seminar, however, was disappointing; it was attended by one minor actor and the young writer Ahmed Fahmy, whose first screenplay this was. Ghada Adel received the centre’s award for best actress for her role in Fi Shaqet Masr al-Gadeeda and Mohamed Khan was awarded best director for the same film.
The films were selected by a committee headed by Father Youssef Mazloum, head of the centre. The jury consisted of the superstar Yussra, Samir Sabry, Samir Seif, screenwriter Waheed Hamed, Magda Zaki, the Iraqi intellectual Sarah Taleb al-Sohail, and Ali Abu-Shadi, head of the Censorship Authority.