Festival improves but awards leave a lot to be desired

Joseph Fahim
5 Min Read

Critic bashes Arab films as “plainly rubbish

Cairo: The 30th Cairo International Film Festival had its ups and downs, but if we sidestep what could be considered controversial judging, this year’s cinematic extravaganza was a remarkable improvement on yesteryear.

However, as predicted, Egyptian films, apart from the award winner Qass We Lazq (Cut and Paste), were not up to standard.

Syrian critic Rafiq El-Sabban put it best when he said Arabic films were plainly rubbish and the only two good films are the ones that deserved to win.

El-Sabban said that the musical Mafeesh Gheir Keda (None But That) was different and amusing yet the film had a small production for a musical and didn t provide the audience with the sweet visual taste of such a genre.

Emad El-Bahhat s feature debut Istughomaya (Hide and Seek), although a good effort and an indication of a promising career for its director, was still a bad film.

El-Sabban also criticized the somewhat overzealous decision to award the Chinese film The Road three prizes especially for the Special Jury Mention which he believes should have gone to Egyptian actor Khaled Abol Naga s performance in Civic Duty.

The Road, an excellent film in its own merits, was topped by other films in the competition. El-Sabban, along with many other critics, considered the Brazilian film Zuzu Angel as the lawful, robbed winner of the Golden Pyramid.

The film, predicted by many to win best film and actress, left the festival empty handed.

Argentinean film La Volocidad Funda el Olvido (Velocity Begets Oblivion), considered by critics and The Daily Star Egypt to be the best film in the festival, was only given the best actor award, while La Ultima Mirada (The Last Gaze), another favorite for The Daily Star Egypt, left with only the International Critics award.

The choices for the Silver Pyramid and Direction were particularly infuriating. El-Sabban stated that the Silver Pyramid winner Sankara from Sri Lanka didn t deserve to win and that the award should ve been given to any of the much superior Latin American films.

He also said the Best Director award for the Iranian film Jayee Dar Dour-Dasti (Somewhere Too Far), a forgettable senseless melodrama that represents only a pale shadow of other superior Iranian films, was absurd since the film was upstaged by at least five films in the competition.

The basic notion of awarding a film is directly proportional to the tastes of the jury members, their cultural backgrounds and their political and social ideologies, explained film critic Khayriya El-Bishlawy.

Yet, it is difficult not to commend all the improvements that took place this year.

Ezzat Abu Ouf, festival president, proved that with more experience and confidence he has the potential to turn the Cairo fest into the international cultural event Marrakech and Dubai are becoming.

Organization was a major improvement over the last three or four years. Press conferences and screenings were held on time, discussions were, most of the time, civilized and controlled and the opening ceremony was excellent.

And although Egyptian celebrities rarely showed up during the proceedings of the festivals, except at the few gala dinners, it was Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris that pulled the festival from its slump.

His contribution in publicizing the event and the touch of glamour he stamped on every aspect of the festival, apart from the artistic one, is clear and undeniable.

The absence of any high-profile films, except for Paris, Je T aime (Paris I Love You) and Indigènes (Days of Glory) was both a blessing and a curse.

On the on one hand, it gave more room for the smaller, lesser known films to shine. On another hand, and despite the considerable commercial success the festival enjoyed this year, the selection denied many film lovers a rare opportunity to watch the latest art blockbusters from Europe which would likely have attracted more audiences.

All things considered, the festival was a success, both artistically and commercially. The problem that remains unsolved is the global publicity for the festival.

What the festival needs now is not the films; it needs the media outlets and the major celebrities to boost its image and essentially compete with both the giant festivals and the emerging ones.

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