The Alexandria International Film Festival (AIFF) for Mediterranean countries celebrated its 25th anniversary under a new president, the renowned film critic Khairiya al-Bishlawy. The festival is the second oldest film festival in Egypt and is organised by the Egyptian Association of Film Writers and Critics (EAFWC).
This year’s festival began on 4 August and ended last Monday. Only a small number of stars attended, among them Naglaa’ Fathy, Libliba, Fifi Abdou, Elham Shahin, Mahmoud Hemeida, Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, Khaled Zaki, and the famous media figure Amr Adib and his wife Lamis al-Hadidi.
The festival came under fire, however, for the utter chaos on opening night. Film makers were also critical of the special jury prize which was awarded to the Egyptian film Lamh al-Basar (Glimpse), perceiving it as an uncalled for compliment to the host country.
Something old, something new
It was scheduled that the Egyptian film Ezbet Adam (Adam’s Estate) would be screened on opening night but because of some technical glitches the film was withdrawn by the producer, in hope that it would be screened in the Cairo International Film Festival next November. The Italian film Black and White was excluded because it included a sexually explicit scene which was deemed improper for opening night. Finally, it was the Turkish film Healing the Past that made it to the opening.
The Alexandria International Film Festival has undergone several administrative changes, but many aspects remained constant. The main aspect was the opportunity to watch new films from various countries—this year the films came from 13 countries. The new event, however, was that the festival celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Egyptian Cinema Institute, by calling on the Alexandrian graduates to discuss their success stories then and now. In addition, the festival decided to lower the entry fee from EGP100 to EGP50 to make it easier for more cinema lovers to attend. Moreover, the talented rising stars Yusra al-Louzi and Asser Yassin were celebrated.
The AIFF paid tribute to all the past presidents who had contributed in making the festival a success over 25 years. For life achievement, the legendary Mariam Fakhreddin, and Hassan Hosni were honoured. A special tribute was awarded to the visionary film director Tawfiq Salah, director of photography Moustafa Imam, and Kamal al-Malakh (1919 – 1998) who first founded film festivals in Egypt.
Palestine was this round’s guest of honour, especially since al-Quds has been announced the capital of Arab culture this year. Nine recent Palestinian productions were screened, among them The Salt of this Sea, Laila’s Birthday and Haifa.
Egypt participated with only one film Lamh al-Basar (The Glimpse) directed by Youssef Hisham and starring Hussein Fahmy. France chimed in with A Christmas Tale, The Feelings Factory and Versailles, Spain with Strangers, Seven Minutes and Make it Look Like an Accident, Italy with Mid-August Lunch, Tunisia with Kindy, Greece with Angels and Weightlifter, Bosnia and Herzegovina with Night Guards and Syria with Days of Boredom
The best film prize went to the Italian production Quiet Chaos, directed by Antonello Grumaldi. The film begins with a brutal, jolting coincidence. At the beach near their summer villa Pietro and his brother, Carlo rescue two women from drowning, an event that is nearly simultaneous with an unspecified accident that kills Pietro’s wife, Lara. He is left with their 10-year-old daughter. Pietro abandons work, spending his days loafing in a small park near Claudia’s school. As the days stretch into weeks, he becomes something of a neighborhood character, a benign, eccentric presence whose watchful, diffident manner arouses sympathy and mild curiosity from other frequenters of the area.