Cairo International Film Festival President Hussein Fahmy called the upcoming 44th edition of CIFF "The year of ambition and challenges," and proceeded to ask the question "Where do we go from here?"
The festival has seen the departure of its former president last year and the whole artistic direction of the festival has been revolutionized as well. But this isn't an Arab Spring, rather an Arab Filmmaking Revolution, one that allows great films from the world to come to Egypt, while also showcasing the best of its own filmmakers and those from the Region.
Fahmy also asked "How can the festival take new steps, in particular, in light of an artistic scene dominated by the specter of a world war that has changed the global economic landscape and directly affected us locally?" and pointed to the fact that cinema is a bridge between cultures. "Indeed, war and politics divide, nevertheless art heals the wounds created by conflict and eventually becomes a language with an alphabet known and belonging to everyone."
The festival kicks off with Steven Spielberg's semi autobiographical oeuvre The Fabelmans featuring Paul Dano, Michelle Williams and David Lynch (playing John Ford!).
Among the most anticipated films in the CIFF Competition line up this year are the world premiere of Ahmad Abdalla's 19B, Firas Khoury's Alam, fresh from its TIFF premiere and a screening in Rome, the MENA premiere of Polish film Bread and Salt by Damian Kocur, and finally Ridha Behi's The Island of Forgiveness, featuring a cameo by Italian/Tunisian acting legend Claudia Cardinale.
Out of Competition are a few International Oscar contenders like Lukas Dhont's Close, Jerzy Skolimowski's donkey road trip EO, the Ukrainian/Turkish Klondike by Maryna Er Gorbach and Alice Diop's Saint Omer, fresh from its Grand Jury Prize and Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of the Future awards in Venice.
CIFF's Director Amir Ramses pointed out: "Another feature in this edition that we were keen on shedding light on is building bridges between the film industry and the new generations. Aspiring filmmakers and enthusiasts have the chance to attend a workshop with one of the world’s most important filmmakers, Hungarian director Béla Tarr. Also the festival will contribute informing a new generation of cinematographers and filmmakers, as a cinematography workshop will be held in addition to usual masterclasses and panel discussions. Reaching out to the new generation and contributing to shaping its awareness is an integral part of the festival’s roles."
Continuing with the film program, featured in the Horizons of Arab Cinema Competition there is Algerian award winning helmer Mounia Meddour's latest Houria, the world premiere of Hassan Benjelloun's Jalaldine from Morocco, as well as Lebanese actor and filmmaker Carlos Chahine's Mother Valley, also a world premiere at the festival.
In the line up for Cairo's International Critics’ Week Competition we find Saim Sadiq's Pakistani Oscar entry Joyland, the international premiere of Christian Suhr's documentary Light Upon Light and the world premiere of the Moroccan film The Oasis of Frozen Waters by Mohammed Raouf Sebbahi.
Short films have a myriad of gems among them, including Murad Abu Eisheh's follow up to his Oscar shortlisted Tala'vision, this one titled A Calling. From the Desert. To the Sea. But also the Sudanese Buzz by Mohamed Fawi and Egypt's own Hind Metwalli's The Interview.
In the festival's special screenings, the MENA premiere of A Cooler Climate, co-directed by James Ivory and featuring the beloved filmmaker's trip to Afghanistan in the 1960's, as well as Lav Diaz's When the Waves Are Gone in all its 187 minutes long glory.
International Panorama features one of our favorite films from Venice this year, Rachid Hami's For My Country and Roschdy Zem's Our Ties -- both French productions.
Previously announced by the festival, there will be three lifetime achievement awards handed out at the festival. The first two are a Golden Pyramid Award for lifetime achievement which will be awarded to Hungarian filmmaking legend Béla Tarr and Egyptian acting legend Lebleba. This year's Faten Hamama Excellence Award recipient is beloved Egyptian director Kamla Abu Zekry.
We will leave you with the words of CIFF's Director Amir Ramses, who said: "Perhaps being appointed in a position, which was taken by many prestigious names on top of which is my valued mentor, the late film critic and programmer Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, was a way to give back and pay my respect to an institution that made me the filmmaker I am today before it was a new step in my professional career."
For more information and to view the entire line up, check out the CIFF website.