Cairo’s 19th International Film Festival for Children

15-12-2011 10:12 AM

Madeleine Nader

As has been the case during the last 19 years, the second week in March saw the Cairo International Film Festival for Children. This year the festival witnessed an increase in the number of films taking part; 315 films representing 53 countries were shown. There was, however, a general discontent with the poor organisation of the festival, beginning with the opening night and lasting through to the closing ceremony. The film scheduled for screening on opening night, the US’ Igor directed by Tony Leondis, was only screened three days later. Spectators frequently went to see a certain film, only to find that its screening had been delayed and another film was being shown.
The poor organisation, lack of publicity, and the conflicting times led to poor attendance; in most films the children attending were not more than 15 in number.

Not for children
The festival’s administration was also strongly criticised since most non-Arabic films were screened without Arabic subtitles, while the films speaking in a non-Egyptian Arabic accent were hardly understood by the children. The Saudi Arabian film Shadid and Tamam was dubbed in Egyptian accent, but the children could not understand the vocabulary used. Some films included language that was not fit for children, while the topics handled by other films were also not fit for children.
The Philippine film Brutus—the Journey was 100 minutes long and left the children uninterested. The film’s message was poorly conveyed, since it shades light on some tribes in the Philippines and the miserable life the children lead there.
Likewise, the Egyptian film Falcon Team did not belong to the category of children’s films, since the characters are restricted to five adults who try all along the film to do supernormal acts.     

Positive sides
On the positive side, the festival was keen to introduce five films that reject violence against children. Among these films were New Zealand’s Run, China’s Expectation Dream Children, India’s Every Child is Special, which tackles the misunderstanding between parents and children, especially when the children fail to achieve brilliantly in school. The film ends on a bright note, a teacher discovers that a child who had been poor at numeracy and literacy was a gifted painter.
Handcrafts produced by children with special needs were displayed in a special corner at the Opera House. Compared to last year, when only five associations for children with special needs took part, great progress was witnessed with the participation of 22 associations this year.   
The Festival ran workshops for children gifted in the field of animation, under the supervision of specialists. The workshops were much better attended than the screened films.
A ‘parallel jury’ was formed of children from several countries who were able to communicate well in English.  Another 30 children helped with the organisation effort, though—considering the sub-standard organisation of the festival—it is doubtful what these children learnt of management skills. Several children were chosen to be announcers on the closing ceremony. 
It was a very thoughtful gesture that, as the festival activities went on, some of the films were screened at such venues as the Integrated Care Centres’ libraries, some centres for disabled children, the children’s cancer hospital, and culture palaces.

Egypt’s prizes
The Egyptian animation film Zleizla, directed by Sherif al-Sayed and produced by al-Mawred al-Sakafi, won the gold prize at LE12,000, while the silver prize went to the TV programme Listen to Us, directed by Andrea Zakariya and produced by the Egyptian al-Karma Company for Education and Entertainment jointly with the Egyptian Television and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood.
The winning film tells the story of Zleizla whose father marries after her mother passes away. The father later dies, and the stepmother—together with her daughter—treat Zleizla cruelly and saddle her with all the housework.. One day, Zleizla is ordered to go buy something from Umminna al-Ghoula (a legendary female monster who terrifies children). On her way, Zleizla keeps her spirits up by singing and quoting delicate words. Her graceful manner wins over Umminna al-Ghoula who then treats her with utmost kindness and even gives her a gift.  

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