CAIRO: A small Spanish film set in Spain and Morocco about illegal immigration snatched the Cairo International Film Festival’s Golden Pyramid award last Friday at a small closing ceremony thankfully free of the opening’s numerous anomalies.
“Return to Hansala – which also won the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) – chronicles the journey of a Moroccan immigrant in Spain who returns to her hometown with the corpse of her brother, killed in a failed illegal immigration attempt. The woman is accompanied by an undertaker whose business relies on taking corpses of murdered illegal immigrants back to their families.
“We made this movie between two countries, Morocco and Spain and we understood each other, director Chus Giutierrez said. “This is for Morocco, for Hansala and for our work.
The other big winner of the night was Belgium’s “Cut Loose, notching the Silver Pyramid award as well as the best screenplay award for writer Bram Renders.
Based on an autobiographical novel, the film follows the thoughts of a journalist caught between his ideals and a reality that challenges them. The film touches upon hot-button issues such as euthanasia and immigrant rights, tackled from a light-hearted perspective.
“This is the award ceremony which is attended by the most beautiful and the best dressed people I’ve ever seen in any award ceremony, the film’s director Jan Verheyen said, before dedicating his award to his leading actress, Sana Mouziane.
“I would like to share this award with a very brave Moroccan actress who’s living in Cairo, because she came to a strange country to work with a very strange person, being me, and she had to learn a strange language in order to play in the film. Sana, this is for you.
French director Safy Nebbou’s sophomore full-length feature “L empreinte de l ange (Mark of an Angel) also won gongs, for best script and best first or second feature.
Based on a true story, “Angel centers on a mother finding her lost daughter and her struggle to prove her parentage.
“Shokran Keteer, Nebbou said. “This is my second time at the Cairo Film Festival, my second award and I hope to come back for a third time, for a third award.
Argentinean actor Juan Diego Botto won the best actor award for his performance as Spanish painter El Greco’s dubious, admiring priest in Greek production “El Greco.
French actress Yolande Moreau received the best actress award for her intense portrayal of mid-19th century painter Séraphine de Senlis in “Séraphine. Both Moreau and Botto were not in attendance.
Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen won the best director award for her sophomore film “Dancers. Christensen also didn’t attend the closing ceremony.
Swiss film “Tandoori Love received the Artistic Contribution award. The film tells the story of a Swiss waitress, engaged to her boss, who falls in love with the new Indian chef.
“I’m just coming from Mumbai this morning and for very personal reasons, I would like to dedicate this award to my Indian friends and to India in general, the film’s Swiss director Oliver Paulus said. “India that has given a huge artistic contribution to this film and is now going through horrible terror strikes, not only in the last 48 hours, but again and again. Fortunately, the jury has made its decision before Mumbai got hit, so I can happily accept this award.
Chinese film “Finding Shangrila won the best cinematography prize while Spanish period piece “The Blinding Sunflowers received a special mention from the jury.
On the Arabic Feature Films Competition front, Algerian/French production “Mascarades won the best Arabic film award and monetary prize of LE 100, 000. The comedy revolves around a young overconfident man who, desperate to sustain his image in front of his townsfolk, convinces them of finding an Australian suitor for his narcoleptic spinster sister.
The best Arabic script prize was granted to two films: Egypt’s “Basra, directed by Ahmed Rachwan, and Palestine’s “Laila’s Birthday from acclaimed filmmaker Rachid Masharawy.
“It took me 10 days to get out of Palestine and reach Cairo, Masharawy said. “Ten years ago, I was here at the same stage with my first feature film and I received an award. And from the same stage, the film was launched in the world.
I’d like to dedicate this award to all the people trapped in the Gaza Strip.
Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino and great Mexican director Arturo Ripstein were granted the lifetime achievement award at the final segment of the ceremony.
“This is a wonderful honor and just being invited here is a fulfilment of a life-long dream to see Egypt and I must confess, it even surpassed my wildest expectations, Sorvino said.
“I was so thrilled and honored to meet your incredible first lady, Mrs Mubarak. I have discovered in her a role model as a human being because I feel, as a woman, she’s done so much with her foundations and her tireless work on behalf of women and children around the world, and she’s someone I hope to emulate in the future.
“I hope this is the first of many visits that I’ll make to Egypt. I love your country, I love your people and I love your culture.
In his acceptance speech, Ripstein said; “It’s an honor and a pleasure to get this award. I’m especially glad to get it here in Cairo, the city of the man that inspired me to make one of my best films. I dedicate this award to Naguib Mahfouz.