21 July 2024 01:18 PM

The Sixth Edition of El Gouna Film Festival (GFF)

Friday، 22 December 2023 - 12:00 AM

El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) launched its sixth edition on Thursday 14 December 2023 in the Red Sea resort town of El-Gouna, without special celebrations.

Following two postponements in solidarity with the Palestinian people, the event kicked off without a flashy opening or red carpet event. The majority of guests arrived dressed in black, in stark contrast to earlier iterations of the GFF.

The organizers announced that this year the festival will not have any celebratory events "reaffirming El-Gouna Film Festival's solidarity with the Palestinian people."

The festival is more strictly focused on providing viewings for its feature films this year.

The Festival’s Program & AWARDS

The festival’s program consists of the three official competitions (Feature Narrative Competition, Feature Documentary Competition and Short Film Competition), the Official Selection out of Competition and Special Presentations.

This year, the Feature Narrative Competition includes 14 films. The jury of the competition is headed by Bosnian Director Jasmila Žbanić.

The GFF program also includes 12 films in the Feature Documentary Competition, 21 films in the Short Film Competition, and 17 films in the Official Selection out of Competition section.

Also, 13 films compete for the GFF's annual Cinema for Humanity Audience Award, while five compete for El Gouna Green Star Award dedicated to the best work covering environmental causes.

The GFF program includes a panel with artist Hend Sabry, and a lecture on production with American producer Ted Hope, in addition to a number of discussion panels on topics like influential filmmaking, storytelling and climate, and the Egyptian cinema.

GFF bestows awards of more than US $224.000, along with trophies to the winners of the competitive sections. In the Special Presentations section, the festival showcases iconic films from the past that continue to be cherished by film loving audiences. Feature-length films across all competitions are eligible for GFF’s Cinema for Humanity Audience Award. Films across all sections that raise awareness on issues related to the environment will be eligible to win the festival’s Green Star Award.

The opening ceremony

First to take the stage at the opening ceremony was renowned Egyptian actor Mahmoud Hemeida who said, “We share a responsibility in these darkest times of humanity. We as artists hold the untold stories and the uncomfortable truths. We have the power to highlight the terrors to which the world is turning a blind eye,” he said, referencing Israel's ongoing war on Gaza which since 7 October has claimed the lives of more than 18500 people.

Hemeida then stated that he would not ask the audience to observe minutes of silence, explaining that "mourning is a sign of grief but also it helps to forget [what is happening in Gaza], and [he] doesn’t want anyone to forget."

The opening ceremony then featured a song Ghosn Al-Zaytoon (The Olive Branch) presented by the Palestinian-Chilean singer-songwriter Elyana.  The GFF's sixth edition includes a special programme dedicated to Palestinian cinema titled "Window on Palestine." Among the films screened are Al-Ustaz (The Teacher) by Farah Nabulsi which scooped Best Film Award and Best Actor Award for Saleh Bakri at the Red Sea Film Festival, and the restored edition of Yousry Nasrallah’s Bab Al-Shams (Gate of the Sun, 2004), to name but a few. 

During the opening event, the director of GFF Intishal El-Timimi said that despite the challenges the festival has faced in previous years - including Covid-19 - and this edition's double postponement, the festival has proven its strength again.

Actress Yousra appeared on stage in black, reciting the words of Mohamed Mounir’s song Hadouta Masriya written by Abdel-Reheim Mansour. She expressed her grief for Gaza and underscored that "there is no better tool than art and cinema to remind the world about their humanity." She handed filmmaker Marwan Hamed the Career Achievement Award who dedicated the award to his late father screenwriter Wahid Hamed. 

Later on, Abu presented his rendition of the song The World is Blind.

Actor Mohamed Farrag alongside two other artists who worked behind the camera - Khairy Farag and Mohamed Kilany - also received due recognition for their contribution to the Egyptian cinema industry.

The founder of El-Gouna Film Festival, Samih Sawiris took the stage and said that he was uncertain of holding this edition, but that once the decision to cancel the celebrations was taken, he was assured that the festival should take place.

Sawiris praised Palestinian cinema saying, "The Palestinian people have brilliant films like any other country and they want to live like any other people in the world." He closed his speech with a wish that next year's festival will enjoy better circumstances.

The ceremony concluded its activities with the screening of Amr Salama’s short film 60 Geneih (60 Egyptian Pounds).

A Press Event

In a press event on Monday, the festival announced it is hosting a “film market”, for the first time, in addition to several new initiatives including the “CineGouna Emerge”.

Intishal al-Timimi, director of GFF, didn’t affect it, but highlighted the festival’s importance on the cinematic scene. He also noted that the void the festival left and its comeback reflected the success of its past five editions, and the sturdy foundations on which it stood since its debut in 2017.

Timimi said he’s committed to maintaining the power of GFF despite the serious competition among the Arabic film festivals, which start with the Gouna festival and ends with the Red Sea Film Festival separated by short time intervals.

Eng. Naguib Sawiris, the festival founder, said “the city of Gouna is the key behind the festival’s success. Cinema makes happiness and we need that,” noting that he’s passionate about movies and that he watches four films a day. Sawiris said the festival has succeeded since its first edition thanks to good intentions and teamwork.

Marianne Khoury, GFF artistic director, announced that 80 films are partaking in the festival, some of them won international awards. She also said that the festival received a total of 160 submissions, and the committee selected 20 projects — 13 in development and 7 in post-production, adding that 14 films will be screened simultaneously with the GFF as part of the “Zawya Cinema”, so the audience in Cairo can watch them. Yousra, the esteemed actress and member of the International Advisory Committee, called on the media to give the festival’s major segments, workshops and events the same attention usually given to the Red Carpet.

Amr Mansi, GFF executive director, said he is betting on a different edition that serves the cinema industry and puts it on par with tourism. “We were concerned about the economic situation and the lack of sponsor, but we saw a remarkable enthusiasm from the old sponsors and those who have joined as for the first time,” he added.

The press event was also attended by filmmaker Marwan Hamed, who will be handed the 2023 Career Achievement Award; and filmmaker Amr Salamah who partakes in the festival with his film “60 Pound” in the short film competition.

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