Apart from the dazzling fanfare of star studded film festivals, the 41st Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) held from 20 to 29 November 2019 closed with a ceremony during which the festival president, Muhammad Hefzi, announced the harvest of this round in numbers, achievements, and the winners of each competition.
According to Mr Hefzi, some 40,000 cinemagoers visited the Cairo Opera House to watch over 150 films from 63 countries screened along the 10 days the CIFF lasted. The opening film was Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”, which re-screened to free admission the following day, and recorded a record turn-out.
An exciting achievement was that the 41st edition of the CIFF was announced by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to have been awarded OSCAR qualifying film festival status.
Commitment to ‘gender equality’
The 41st CIFF featured the screening of 150 films, including 21 short films, and 21 films from among Egyptian classics. The total thus amounted to more than 170 films, 35 of which were international productions and 84 from the Middle East and North Africa screened for the first time.
Some 550 converged on Cairo from abroad, at least 150 of them coming on their own expense, for the festival.
In recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of cinema, the festival honoured a number of actors, actresses, and filmmakers. Among them were American actor and director William George; Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki; veteran Egyptian director Sherif Arafa; Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby; and American-British director-actor-screenwriter Terry Gilliam. The four latter figures were granted the Faten Hamama Honorary Award for lifetime achievement.
The CIFF became the first among Arab and African festivals to announce its commitment to the “5050 by 2020” pledge launched during Cannes Film Festival in 2018, by signing an agreement to promote gender equality in the CIFF upcoming edition in 2020.
In the International Competition, the Golden Pyramid for best film went to Fernando Frias’ “I Am No Longer Here” from Mexico. The Silver Pyramid, the special jury prize for best director went to director Bas Devos for his “Ghost Tropic”, and the Bronze Pyramid for best first or second work went to director Michal Hogenauer for “A Certain Kind of Silence” and to directors Zhang Chong and Zhang Bo as well for their “The Fourth Wall”.
“Between Heaven and Earth” by Najwa Najjar won the Naguib Mahfouz Prize for Best Screenplay; Judy Ann Santos won Best Actress Award for her role in “Mindanao” by Brillante Mendoza, and the Best Actor Award went to Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño for his role in “I Am No Longer Here”.
In the Horizons of Arab Cinema, the Best Arab Non-Feature Film was declared Beirut Terminus by Elie Kamal, and the Best Acting Performance was awarded to Ali Tamer for his role in “Haifa Street” by Mohanad Hayal.
The Critics’ Week Jury Award, the Fathy Farag Prize for best artistic contribution went to “Arrest” by Andrei Cohn. “Land of Ashes” by Sofía Quirós Úbeda won the Shadi Abdel Salam Prize for Best Film.
In the Cinema of Tomorrow Best Short Film Competition, the 1st honourable mention was “The Trap” by Nada Riyadh; and the 2nd honourable mention “Contact” by Samir Syriani. The Special Jury Prize was awarded to “The Marvelous Misadventures of the Stone Lady” by Gabriel Abrantes; and the Youssef Chahine Prize for Best Short Film went to “Ambience” by Wisam Al Jafari.
The CIFF top cash award, the Youssef Cherif Rizkallah Award (Audience Award) at USD20,000 that went to “Let’s Talk” by Marianne Khoury. The Best Arab Film “A Son” by Mehdi M. Barsaoui won UNFP Award, the Salah Abu Seif Prize of USD15,000.
The Arab Cinema Centre (ACC) declared that 42 critics from 13 Arab countries joined the jury for the Arab Critics’ Awards for European Films, a new section of its Critics’ Awards for Arab Films launched in partnership with EFP (European Film Promotion). The Arab Critics’ Awards for European Films went to the Macedonian film “God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya”, directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska.
This year’s edition was dedicated to Youssef Cherif Rizkallah (1942-2019), the iconic film critic and historian who passed away on 12 July 2019.
3 December 2019