Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim El Batout’s highly acclaimed second feature “Ein Shams won the Golden Tauro award yesterday for best film at the 54th Taormina Film Festival in Italy.
Following the win, El Batout told Daily News Egypt, “It was amazing and overwhelming to receive such an important prize in a 2000-year-old Greek amphitheater. It was amazing how Italian viewers came and shared what they thought of the film. One of them told me ‘sometimes it gets hot in here too’ [in reference to a line in the film].
“That made me feel that films have no nationality, which makes me see how naïve we are to continue arguing if ‘Ein Shams’ is Moroccan or Egyptian.
“Shams is an ensemble drama interlocking a number of characters and stories to weave a modern Egyptian portrait of loss, poverty, desperation, and hope. The film touches upon several thorny issues, including corruption, apathy of the political elite, tyranny of the political and social system, and the diminishing of innocence in the current stern reality.
Shams, the unofficial protagonist of the film and resident of Ein Shams district, is an 11-year-old girl whose sole wish is to visit Downtown. Her vision of the capital’s center bears no resemblance to reality. Shams’ downtown is chiefly inspired by the fanciful illustrations of her English book.
Upon its completion late last year, the film received a grant from the Moroccan Culture to blow up his digitally-shot film to 35 mm.
“Ein Shams was shot on location on a shoe-string budget with no professional actors. Neither El Batout, nor the members of his cast are enlisted in the Actors’ Union and El Batout failed to obtain shooting permission.
As a result, the 35 mm version of “Ein Shams wasn’t initially allowed to enter the country while the film’s producer, Film House Egypt, were demanded to obtain required authorizations and pay a fine of nearly LE 250,000 to the Egyptian Acting Union.
After lengthy deliberations with the censors, El Batout and the film’s producers agreed to register the film as a foreign Moroccan production, hence limiting the number of prints to a maximum of 10.
A few numbers of authorizations were still required after Al Arabeya Productions, one of the two major film conglomerates in Egypt, picked up the film for domestic release. A commercial release date for the film hasn’t been set so far.
Asked if the win could push the film to be granted commercial release soon, El Batout replied, “I think it will for sure. As for when exactly, it’s still all up to the bureaucracies.
Deborah Young, chief international film critic of The Hollywood Reporter and former Variety critic, has for the second time directed the Taormina Film Festival which ran from June 15 to 21.
The Taormina International Film Festival takes place in the town’s famous Greek Theater. The festival features film previews, independent features, documentaries, shorts and tributes to filmmakers of the past. It also includes the Mediterranea section, a selection of seven films produced in the Mediterranean region which compete for the Golden Tauro for Best Film.
Besides the competition, the festival screens a number of films produced outside the Mediterranean region.
“Ein Shams has recently been screened in the Cannes Film Festival market.
The film has also participated in the Adana Film Festival in Turkey and Rotterdam Arab film festival.