31st Cairo International Film Festival

Egypt, November 27 - December 7 2007

The jury

Wilfried Reichart (Germany), Daniela Bisogni (Italy), Salah Sermini (France), Mahmoud Jemni (Tunisia), Nabeeha Lotfy (Egypt)

Awarded films

The Cairo International Film Festival was held recently in the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Juries for the international competition for feature films, digital feature films and Arabic films held their deliberations in the cinema of this luxurious hotel, situated on the northern end of Roda Island in the middle of the Nile. In addition to film screenings, the festival also hosted symposia and workshops on digital filmmaking, the relationship between TV and cinema, intellectual-property rights and film enterprise in the Arab world. There was also a European Funds presentation.

Though the major players gathered under the roof of the Grand Hyatt, the films — and this is one of the things that makes the Cairo festival so exciting — were screened in seven major cinemas across the city and generated a high degree of public interest. A curious and extremely enthusiastic public was able to watch international productions which arrived without undergoing scrutiny from the official censor. The festival was also beset by scandal, which occurred at the press conference held after the screening of the Egyptian film The Seventh Heaven: Journalist Faten Mohammed Ali, from the independent newspaper “El Arabi El Nasari”, attacked the main festival sponsor, entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris, accusing him of excluding Egyptian journalists from the opening gala, “shaping the festival the way he liked and insulting the press.”

In festivals held in the Arab world, the competition to acquire and program interesting films is becoming tougher. The established festivals in Tunis and Damascus, as well as the A-list festival in Cairo, are feeling the pressure of rich oil nations like Dubai. Despite the fact that they possess no indigenous film industry or film-making tradition, these countries are keen to bask in the limelight of international film attractions and stars, and also have the funds needed to realize these ambitions.

This year, as Cairo celebrated the 100th anniversary of Egyptian cinema, the great and only truly international Egyptian star, Omar Sharif, presided over the festival in his capacity as “Honorary President” from the start of the opening ceremony until the end of the closing ceremony. (Wilfried Reichart)