El Gouna Film Festival postpones 2022 edition

The reason for the decision was quoted as to "allow more time to focus on both the artistic and organizational side of upcoming editions," but our Yasmina Wardi has some other ideas.
El Gouna Film Festival postpones 2022 edition

Today's announcement by El Gouna Film Festival reads like this:

"El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) announces the postponement of its 6th edition which was scheduled to be held October 13-22, 2022, in El Gouna, Egypt on the Red Sea.

In view of the vital role played by GFF in the art and tourism sectors, both locally and internationally, in view of current global challenges, and with the consequent need to develop an integrated strategy that will live up to the growing expectations of the festival as a leading platform for film, art, and culture, the decision was made to postpone the festival." The press release also mentioned as reasons that "this decision will allow more time to focus on both the artistic and organizational side of upcoming editions, while strengthening GFF’s ability to play its leading role and contribute to the development of the film industry regionally and internationally."

But storms had been brewing inside the organization. Back in October, before the start of the festival, GFF advisory committee member and movie star Yousra was involved in a cat fight with festival director Intishal Al Timimi over his comments that a board member of the organization could not be honored by the festival. GFF typically hands out one or two Lifetime Achievement Awards during the weeklong event, which in 2022 had been scheduled to take place over ten days. The longer format was announced via a press release back in October of 2021, when the dates for the upcoming three editions of the festival were also confirmed with Al Timimi at the helm.

In today's announcement, no future dates for the 6th edition were given.

During the 2021 edition of GFF, the presence of a disgraced former festival director who had been at the helm of both ADFF and Tribeca and has burned quite a few bridges along the way, was conspicuous. He showed up out of nowhere and when asked, said Yousra had invited him. That made tongues wag of course even though the Egyptian movie star had officially made up with Al Timimi and they had hugged it out for all to see. See the end of the video below.

The 2021 edition of GFF was an affair to be remembered. For MIME founder E. Nina Rothe it was a great cinematic event filled with wonderful films, but for most western journalists, the articles always included mention of the fire that broke out right before the inaugural ceremony of the festival. This was done in much the same way every single article about the arts and culture in Saudi Arabia seems to include a paragraph about the killing of blogger Jamal Khashoggi. It is after all how western media manage to feel superior when talking about the Arab world -- but that's a whole other conversation I shall save for a different day.

During the 2021 edition of GFF there were mutinies, like the festival's Artistic Director Amir Ramses jumping ship two days before the event's end and citing a very vague "disagreements with the festival administration." Ramses has since joined the Cairo Film Festival team. Then there was an issue with Palestinian filmmaker Saeed Zagha who was prevented from entering Egypt, as many Palestinians often are, and the decision by actor and filmmaker Muhammad Bakri to skip his scheduled attendance of the festival, in solidarity with his compatriot.

A Cannes winning film by an Egyptian filmmaker was singled out by some minor celebrity and then the local media for portraying a poor and destitute Egypt, and he was accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, as typically those who need to be discredited are called.

On top of all that, in the middle of the festival, GFF's co-founder Bushra had a terrible tuk tuk accident and broke her arm, even though the beautiful actress continued on with her duties without missing a beat -- or a smile. In March of this year, Bushra announced her own reasons for leaving the festival's organization at the end of her mandate. "In light of global and cosmic changes, man must keep pace with this change and reconsider his journey and search for something new and a different challenge," she wrote on her Facebook page, "therefore, I decided to end my trip with the El Gouna Festival after more than 7 years and the conclusion of my mandate."

What the real reasons are for postponing a truly successful event, envied by many in the industry and one that inspired other festivals in the Region, may be known only to the organizers. But I can speculate that it may have to do with having two major cinematic events in one country, with the Cairo International Film Festival taking top dog place as the one officially supported by the Egyptian government. GFF was the baby of multi-millionaire Naguib Sawiris who co-founded the festival with Bushra in 2017.

There was no word in today's announcement about CineGouna, the industry arm of GFF and an important catalyst for the development and encouragement of cinema in the Arab world. I am saddened by the decision by yet another Arab festival to shutter, at least temporarily, maybe to reopen as Marrakech did, or maybe never to be seen again, as the Dubai International Film Festival. Inshallah, for GFF it will turn out to be the first option, not the latter.

The press release closed with the following: "The festival’s organizing committee will announce the preparation and development for the 6th edition periodically in the coming months." I look forward to good news.

You may also like