The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) has announced establishing a special section titled “Arab Female Directors” in its 40th edition, to be held from the 20th until the 29th November. This exhibit will celebrate eight Arab women who have accomplished great achievements in filmmaking, and who have prestigiously represented Arab Cinema at international festivals.
Prominent film critic Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, CIFF artistic director said, “As a tribute to Arab female directors there will be screenings for some of the films that they skilfully recently directed.”
The film Nawara by Egyptian female director Hala Khalil was chosen to be screened within the section. Film star Menna Shalabi, who was awarded the best actress award at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) in 2015, and the Malmo Arab Film Festival in 2016 for her role in the film. Nawara recounts the story of a poor young maid who happens to work in the villa of a former minister during the events of the January 25 revolution in 2011.
From Egypt, the festival also chose to screen Al- Khroug lel- Nahar by Hala Lotfy. The film revolves around struggles of a family living in one of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods. The 30-year-old daughter is facing trouble expressing her hopes and dreams while caring for her crippled father. Lotfy was awarded Best Director in the Arab World in the New Horizons Competition at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2012.
Hala Khalil is a director, scriptwriter, and producer. She has written and directed numerous films, short films, documentaries and TV series and also worked as an executive producer. Her filmography includes: Best of Times (2004), Cut and Paste (2006) and her award-winning short film The Kite (1997). Khalil also served on several festival juries such as Cairo, Ossian, Rotterdam Arab, and Beirut.
The festival will also screen 3000 nights for Palestinian female director Mai Masri, which was screened in the Contemporary World section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and won the Audience Award at the Valladolid International Film Festival. The film is about Layal, a Palestinian teacher who is arrested for a crime she did not commit. She is sentenced to eight years in an Israeli prison, where she gives birth to a son. Under unsurmountable pressure, Layal becomes an informant against her cell mates for prison authorities.
Mai Masri is a Palestinian filmmaker who studied film at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University (US) where she graduated with a BA degree.
She founded Nour Productions in 1995 with her husband, filmmaker Jean Chamoun and directed several documentaries which received over 60 international awards including the Trailblazer Award at Mipdoc Cannes (2011) and the Luchino Visconti Award in Italy (2004).
Her films were screened in over 100 television stations worldwide including PBS, BBC, Channel 4, France.
The CIFF will also be screening Wajib for Palestinian female director Annemarie Jacir, which was also screened in Contemporary World Cinema at the TIFF in 2017. Moreover, It was chosen to represent Palestine at the Oscars. The film received three awards at The Critics’ Awards by Arab Cinema Centre, in addition to winning the Muhr award for best fiction feature at the DIFF in 2017. Wajib tells the Shady’s story, an architect who returns from Italy to his home in Nazareth to attend his sister’s wedding, and help his father in the wedding’s preparations.
After presenting her 2003 short film Like Twenty Impossibles at Cannes under the aegis of the Cinéfondation, Annemarie Jacir’s feature debut Salt of this Sea premiered in Un Certain Regard 2008. One of the leading filmmakers from the Arab world, she has written, directed, and produced over 16 films. Her three features to date were selected as Palestine’s entry for the Oscars. With a commitment to teaching, training, and hiring locally, Annemarie Jacir also curates, actively promoting independent cinema in the region. Founder of Philistine Films, a production house with offices in Palestine and Jordan, she collaborates regularly with fellow filmmakers. She teaches screenwriting and works as a freelance editor and consultant. Her most recent film Wajib (2017) won 18 international awards including Best Film in Mar Del Plata, Dubai, Amiens, and Kerala.
Also to be screened is the film Wadjda by Saudi Arabian female director Haifaa Al- Mansour. Wadjda is considered the first feature film to be completely shot in Saudi Arabia. The film received numerous international awards including the Audience Award for Best International Feature at the Los Angeles Film festival and an honorary award at the Munich Film Festival. At the Venice Film Festival, the film won the CinemAvvenire’ Award for best film, as well as the CICAE Award and Interfilm Award.
The film Beauty and the dogs by Kaouther Ben Hania, which was recently chosen to represent Tunisia at the upcoming Oscars, will also be screened within the “Arab female directors” section. The film was screened in Un Certain Regard section at Cannes Film Festival in 2017.
Kaouther Ben Hania was born in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. She is a director and a scriptwriter, based in Paris. She studied cinema in Tunisia (EDAC) then in Paris (Fémis and the Sorbonne). She directed several short films including Me, My Sister and the Thing (2006) and Wooden Hand (2013). Both films were successfully received and had a long run on the international festival circuit. Her last documentary film Imams Go to School premiered at the IDFA 2010, and was selected for many prestigious festivals (Vancouver, Dubai, Amiens)
From Algeria the festival will screen The Blessed, a film by Sofia Djama, that received three awards at the Venice Film festival in 2017.
Born in Oran, Sofia Djama moved to Algiers to complete her bachelor’s degree in literature which she started in Bejaia. In the early 2000s, she began writing a collection of short stories in which Algiers served as the main protagonist of each plot. Mollement, Un Samedi Matin, an adaptation of one of them, was her first short film. It was widely acclaimed and received two awards in Clermont Ferrand. This encouraged her to pursue her ambition in the film industry. From then on, she devoted herself to writing her first feature film, Les Bieneureux.
Finally, the CIFF will also be screening the documentary film Sharp tools for Emirati poet and director Nujoom Al- Ghanem.
Nujoom Alghanem is an Emirati poet, scriptwriter, and award-winning director. She has produced several short fictions and documentaries. In addition to producing her own films, she is also a film, media, and cultural consultant to educational, professional institutes, and organisations in the UAE. Alghanem’s filmography includes: Nearby Sky (2014), which won Best Non-Fiction prize in the Muhr Feature competition at the Dubai Film Festival, and Amal (2011), which won First Prize in the Muhr Emirati competition at the DIFF.