• 23:55
  • Thursday ,02 December 2010
العربية

Cairo International Film Festival begins

By-Nehal El-Sherif

Home News

00:12

Thursday ,02 December 2010

Cairo International Film Festival begins

CAIRO - International film stars strutted down the red carpet on Tuesday evening at the 34th Cairo International Film Festival, which opens as Egypt attempts to regain its stature as the hub of Middle Eastern cinema. 

 Hollywood's Richard Gere, French actress Juliette Binoche and some of the top Bollywood and Arab cinema stars and directors made turns before the cameras at the capital's famous Opera House. 

    Egyptian filmmakers are to be the focus throughout the nine-day festival, the oldest event of its kind in the Middle East, which brings together participants from 70 countries. 

    Egypt's cinema was once the crown jewel of the developing world's film output and especially in the Arab world was the Mecca for all things related to movies and television. In recent decades, the industry has lost some of its wider appeal and is struggling to mount a comeback. 

     The Cairo festival has been facing difficulties over the last few years after the rise of other movie festivals in the Gulf. Energy- rich Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar seem determined to lure film industry players with bigger cash prizes than Egypt offers. 

     Cairo has responded by pulling the focus onto itself, its own films and by ensuring an influx of celebrities to the North African metropolis with a cinematic past. 

     From further afield, South Korean actress Yun Jung Hee and India's Irrfan Khan and Celina Jaitley were also listed as guests. 

    But it is homegrown movies that are to be promoted in Cairo. 

    Omar Sharif is honorary president of the event for the fifth year running. The star of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago is Egypt's most famous film industry celebrity abroad. 

    This year, three Egyptian films, carrying some high hopes, will be making their local premieres at the festival. 

    Microphone, a film that won the Grand Prize at Tunisia's Carthage Festival in October, and El-Tariq El-Da'iri (Ring Road) are competing in the Arab film category. 

    The film al-Shouq (Lust), which addresses social repression among poor young women in Cairo, is among 16 films competing for the festival's grand prize in the international competition. 

     'The fact that the film is the only Arab movie in the international competition puts great pressure on me,' dpa quoted the movie's director Khaled al-Haggar as saying. 'But I hope it wins.'

     This year there is a special selection of around 20 films, being shown outside the competitions, that are set in Egypt or feature famous Egyptian characters over the last century, titled 'Egypt As Seen Through The Eyes of World Cinema.' 

     Organisers have also changed the film festival's logo to feature ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, though her rule was during pharaonic times and not the modern Arab era. This year's festival will also pay tribute to Egyptians who have achieved success abroad. The event will honour Egypt-born Khalid Abdalla, a star of the emotional film set in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner. 

     US-based filmmaker Milad Bessada, and director of photography Fouad Said, who invented the cinemobile in the late 1960s that facilitates transport of filming equipment, will also be given accolades. 

    Said received an Oscar from Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his invention. 

     The festival will also give a nod to a foreign trend sweeping Egypt and other parts of the Middle East: Turkish cinema. 

     The runaway success of recent Turkish soap operas in the Arab world has created a buzz around the country's movie industry. 

     Not being able to escape the allure of mainstream cinema, the festival will also be offering up Mike Leigh's Another Year, which was vying for the coveted Palme d'Or for best film at this year's Cannes festival. 

     Screened during the opening ceremony, Leigh's film depicts moments of the life of a happily married couple living in London, throughout the different seasons of the year.