Twenty-three years have lapsed since the first Alexandria International Film Festival, and the legacy continues as Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni inaugurated the film festival last Friday at the Sayid Darwish Theater.
At the opening ceremony, the Culture Minister presented lifetime achievement awards to actress Leila Elwi, director Nader Galal and – as part of their mission to credit the behind-the-scenes technicians -75-year-old camera technician Dakruri Abdel-Halim.
The 23rd session of the festival is dedicated to the name of the scenarist Abdel Hai Adeeb.
Organized by the Egyptian Association of Film Writers and Critics, the Alexandria Film Festival aims to broaden film culture and strengthen the relationships between filmmakers throughout the world. This round focuses on Algerian cinema, short features and documentaries.
Among the 42 participating films from some 25 countries, only the best three movies, shown from January to August 2007, are awarded a total of LE 100,000. The amount is provided by the Ministry of Information in the form of publicity ads aired on TV.
The festival also pays a special tribute to Algerian cinema, highlighting the struggles of the North African Arab country. In accordance, the festival organizers invited French lawyer and renowned pro-Algeria activist Jacques Vergesa.
As an attorney, Verges gained fame for his willingness to take controversial cases. During the struggle in Algeria he defended many accused of alleged terrorism by the French government. He was a supporter of the Algerian armed independence struggle against France, comparing it to French armed resistance to the Nazi German occupation in the 1940s. He also left the French Communist Party following their political move towards the Fourth Republic.
Vergès became a nationally-known figure following his defense of suspected anti-French Algerian freedom fighter Djamila Bouhired on terrorism charges (she was accused of blowing up a café, a civilian target). She was condemned to death but pardoned and freed following public pressure. Vergès himself was sentenced to sixty days in 1960 and lost his license to officially practice law for charges of anti-state activities .
Vergès and Bouhired (they eventually got married) worked on Révolution Africaine, a French magazine focusing on African nationalist revolutions. Her experience was shown in the film “Jamila the Algerian (1958) by director Youssef Chahine.
In addition, a number of Algerian films were shown including The Battle of Algeria, which was banned in France for 40 years despite winning the Golden Lion in the Venice Film Festival.
This year the spotlight shone on short features and documentaries. Some 20 films will be competing for the Best Digital Film Prize, and the LE 14,000 cash prize. Given the selection of the films in this category this year, the competition is likely to be heated.
Most of the entrants – including Dead Money directed by Rami Abdel-Gabar; Identity Card directed by Mohamed Mohsen; and The Greatest Sin of All by Youssef Hisham – have already won recognition and prizes in previous film festivals.
The jury of the festival includes Tunisian director Nouri Bou Zeid as head, artist Mahmoud Hemeida, photography director Tareq El-Telmesani, French critic Lawrence Colombani, Italian Director Mauro Martino, Greek director Eleina Feyodori and Syrian director Abdel Latif Abdel Hamid.