The fifth edition of Cairo Film Days Festival, the industry arm of the Cairo Film Festival, is looking forward to cementing its growing reputation as one of the most important film industry platforms in the Arab world when it takes place from November 17-22.
Launched by former festival president Mohamed Hefzy, an Egyptian producer who resigned earlier this year, the event quickly took place alongside the Atlas workshops at the Marrakech Film Festival and the Red Sea Film Festival Market as key meeting points connecting Arabs and the world. film makers.
“It’s challenging but also exciting,” said newly appointed Industry Head Reem Allam, about taking up her position alongside incoming festival director Amir Ramses and new Cairo Film Connection director Linda Belkheiria. “We are not bound by the traditional ways of doing things. There is some freedom in that.”
This year’s event will include a wide-ranging program of masterclasses, talks, workshops and panels featuring award-winning filmmakers and industry experts from around the world. Next to it is the co-production market “Cairo Film Connection”, which showcases 15 projects from 10 countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
Among the highlights are masterclasses with Hungarian director Béla Tar, French director Matteo Kassovitz and Japanese director Naomi Kawasi, who will lead the international competition jury. And conversations with the Egyptian screen star Lebleba, who will receive the Golden Pyramid Award for Lifetime Achievement at the festival, and Egyptian director Kamal Abu Zakri, who will be honored with the Faten Hamama Award for Excellence.
Alongside these talks, the festival has expanded its program of workshops for Egyptian filmmakers, providing practical tools for local industry that delve deeper into the craft than the plenary sessions. “We want Industry Days to be not just a place where young filmmakers hear an inspiring two-hour talk, but actually a place where they can develop their skills,” Allam said.
Multi-day workshops include a five-day immersive session with American cinematographer Irvin Liu focusing on the art and craft of storytelling and a 10-day workshop led by Tarr. The director will provide one-on-one mentoring to ten up-and-coming Egyptian filmmakers, who will use the course to develop and shoot a scene under the tutelage of a Hungarian screen legend. “It is another level of giving developmental opportunities for filmmakers to develop their skills, create a cinematic voice, and get inspiration from alternative ways of making films,” Allam said.
Another industry session will look at the growing move towards environmentally friendly film production through a distinct regional lens, with several filmmakers appearing in conversation alongside Bassam al-Assad, founder of the Green Screen Initiative in Jordan. The panel will examine how film productions in the Middle East and North Africa can be more environmentally friendly and use sustainable practices. From the green screen, Allam noted that “it is inspiring to see an Arab initiative that encourages Arab producers to be greener.”
Meanwhile, Cairo Industry Days will highlight the growing Saudi film industry, which has been boosted by a slew of public and private investments. “It’s a booming market,” Allam said, citing the Red Sea Film Festival’s $14 million fund for projects by Arab and African directors as an example of how the kingdom has become a driving force for productions not only in the host country, but across the world. region. She added that the Cairo committee will discuss ways that “we can benefit from it as an Arab market.”
It was a strong year for Arab cinema, with filmmakers from the region taking coveted spots at luxury festivals including Cannes, Venice and Toronto. Perhaps just as important as the international spotlight is the number of Arab films that deal with taboo subjects.
For example, the film “The Blue Caftan” by Moroccan director and writer Maryam Touzani, which won the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes, came after a closed tailor in Casablanca. Algerian director Mounia Medawar’s drama “Houria” (pictured above), which will have its first Middle Eastern show in Cairo, is the story of a talented dancer who dreams of joining the Algerian National Ballet until that dream is shattered by a violent assault. Her unexpected path to rebuilding her life.
It is exactly the kind of gritty story of Arab filmmakers that Cairo’s Industrial Days hope to support. “We need people to take risks,” Allam said. “I really hope we can keep pushing the boundaries.”
Cairo International Airport. The Film Festival runs from November 13 to 22.