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  • S A Hannan
    ... From: S A Hannan To: ndiganta@bijoy.net ; indnews@bol-online.com Sent: Monday, December 06, 2004 9:49 PM Subject: The Cairo International Film Festival The
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2004
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, December 06, 2004 9:49 PM
      Subject: The Cairo International Film Festival

      The Cairo International Film Festival
      What’s Hot and What’s Not?


      Mohammad Shawky


      The Russian Film Bless the Woman

      Watching an average of three films from different parts of the world every single day for 10 days in a row was one of the most enjoyable assignments I have had since the beginning of my career as a writer and an enriching experience by all means. For me, like many Egyptian movie lovers who lack exposure to any kind of foreign films other than American ones—and even those are restricted to particular genres—the Cairo International Film Festival has been a wonderful opportunity to learn a lot about other cultures as portrayed by their artists, as well as about the film-making techniques in different countries.

      This year, the quality of the films taking part in the official competition of the festival was notably better than those of the previous sessions of the festival. The majority of the films were either very well made and put together, or at least had unique ideas or techniques that would catch the attention and provoke a lot of inner feelings and thoughts, a phenomenon that must have made it difficult for the jury to finally decide which filmmakers will go back home carrying the prizes and which will go back with empty hands.

      The Awards

      The Best Film Prize, The Golden Pyramid, went to the Italian film Guardians of the Clouds, directed by Luciano Odorisio, in appreciation for what the jury called “the wonderful dramatic buildup and the director’s brilliance in plunging the audience into the depth of emotion, and faithfully portraying an important period of Italian history that glorifies love, friendship, family, and patriotism.” Through the story of a big Italian family and several conflicts in society, the director creates a lively image of Italy in the post-war era.

      The Russian Film Bless the Woman, directed by Stanislav Govorukhin, received a well-deserved Special Jury Prize, The Silver Pyramid. The movie tells the story of a simple Russian woman from the innocence of her early days until she ends up as an ageing, sad woman, and illustrates with great warmth and effectiveness all the pain and suffering that she goes through because of marriage, war, and loss of loved ones.

      The Best First or Second Work of a Director, the Naguib Mahfouz Prize, went to the French director Safy Nebbou for his film The Giraffe’s Neck, a movie about a nine-year-old girl who has lived alone with her mother since her parents got divorced and her grandfather underwent a heart operation which permanently confined him to a nursing home. One day the girl finds letters from her grandmother, who she thought was dead, as her mother and grandfather had told her. The three characters, representing three different generations, start looking for the grandmother in search of the purity of love, the righteousness of the warmth of security, and the shadows of a past which is ever present. In addition to this prize, the actress playing the role of the little girl Louisa Pili received a special mention from the jury for her role.

      Festival Highlights

      One of the major highlights of the official competition of the festival was the Iranian movie The Crime, directed by Mohammad Ali Sajjadi. The novel cinematic language, the rhythm of the screenplay, the depth and sensitivity of the story, and the subtlety of the acting are only a few qualities to mention. It was interesting to see the highly advanced level the Iranian filmmakers have reached, and also quite surprising given the conservative nature of the country and all the restrictions filmmakers have to abide by. It was not surprising that the movie received a special mention from the festival’s jury although it deserved a lot more than that.

      One of the movies that stood out from the crowd was the Slovakian movie Autumn, Yet, Strong Love directed and produced by Zita Furkova. It is a very unique and relatively short movie about the complexity of a relationship between an ageing music composer and a young girl. He meets her by mere coincidence at the beginning of the movie, and she leads him through an emotional and mental rollercoaster of feelings, realities, and dreams within the next hour of the movie. Based on a highly sensitive script, the movie has a lot of human touches and a profound story-telling technique that completely disregards, intentionally, some major facts such as the names the characters, thus adding to the vagueness, and at the same time, the universality of the story. The film takes the spectator on a mysterious journey of ups and downs where one can find oneself laughing at a moment and crying from despair at another. Too bad it did not receive any awards, but I still believe it was worth mentioning.

      The Egyptian Cinema

      Even though the Egyptian director and producer Inas El-Degheidy received the Best Arab Film Award for her Al-Bahethat`an Al-Horeyya (Searching for Freedom); and the Egyptian actress Nelly Kareem, the award for the best actress for her role in Enta Omry (My Soul Mate), which she truly earned; the two Egyptian films taking part in the festival were not up to the standards and disappointed those who interpreted the strong participation of Egypt in the festival as a sign that the Egyptian film industry is on the way out of its crisis. They were surely proven wrong. Enta Omry is a romantic tragedy with a sensitive story and talented actors, but the directness of the dialogue and the slow pace of the movie spoiled even the saddest moments. Al-Bahethat`an Al-Horeyya tackles an important issue, which is the lack of freedom in Arab communities, and the attempts of three young women to regain this lost freedom by fleeing to Paris. Still the movie lacked unity, rhythm, and strong acting skills. I personally believe that the Tunisian and Moroccan films that took part in the competition were much more worthy of the Best Arab Film Award.

      In addition to the movies participating in the festival, over a hundred other films were screened as part of different sections parallel to the official competition, such as the Italian Classics, New Italian Cinema, New Arab Cinema, Latin American Cinema, and the Festival of Festivals, providing the audience with different tastes and alternatives from all over the world.

      *Mohammad Shawky is a graduating senior in the American University of Cairo. He is majoring in business administration but is also passionate about education and learning, social development, performing arts, and creative writing.  

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