New Egyptian Cinema

in 5th El Gouna Film Festival

by Mohamed Nabil

There is no doubt that the Egyptian cinema is experiencing new great developments from a group of young directors. The fifth edition of the El Gouna Film Festival presented a number of diverse eye-catching films, including features, documentaries and short films, some of which won awards.


A mysterious transformation sets a family off on a funny tragic adventure of self-discovery where they eventually learn that life is possible without a dictator as a leader. The film was directed by Omar El Zohairy and won the Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Award in the Critics’ Week at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Despite receiving political criticism, the film is considered one of the finest recent films because of the director’s distinctive style of asking questions and amassing a stellar cast.

Amira is a bubbly 17-year-old girl who plunges into a quest to find her biological father and salvage what is left of her identity as her world falls apart. The film, combining a Palestinian script with an Egyptian director, tells a gentle humanitarian story, which seems incomplete and confusing at times. It screened at the Venice International Film Festival without collecting any awards. Back Home When Sara’s plans turn upside down due to the global pandemic, she finds herself stuck in her childhood home with her parents after living abroad for ten years. As they spend months together in lockdown, Sara feels the need to capture the precious moments spent with her father on a film. Young director Sara Shazil’s film world premiered in El Gouna after her first short film won the Cairo Film Festival award last year.

Captains of Za’atari

Ali El Arabi’s film follows the story of Mahmoud and Fawzi, who has lived in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan for five years. Despite their dire circumstances, they shift their energy towards their first love—soccer. When Aspire Academy arrives at Za’atari seeking players for an international tournament, the two friends get their lifetime opportunity. A poor cinematic experience that focuses on the human aspects at the expense of the images, the film nevertheless won the Best Arab Documentary Film Award at the festival.


After numerous failed attempts to escape the status quo of her generation’s depression, 29 year-old Nour secretly arranges to flee her homeland. Hours before her departure, she embarks on a struggle with a patriarchal society and an inner fight to keep her secret hidden. The 17-minute film which stars Tunisian actress Mariam Al Ferjani, won the award for the best Arab film in El Gouna’s short competition.


After his success with short films that screened in major international festivals, director Morad Mostafa presents his new film at El Gouna under the name Khadiga. It follows an 18-year-old mother living alone with her baby after her husband has left to work in a remote city. One day she makes her way through the hustle and bustle of Cairo streets to pay some visits and she feels uncomfortable with the surroundings.

The mission of El Gouna Film Festival is to showcase a diverse range of films catering to a creative and well-versed audience and is designed for artists and filmmakers. GFF aspires to foster communication between cultures and filmmakers to benefit the industry and our region through the art of filmmaking and by connecting filmmakers from the region with their international counterparts in the spirit of cooperation and cultural exchange. The festival is dedicated to the discovery of new voices and strives to be a catalyst for the development of cinema in the Arab world.

Mohamed Nabil 
Edited by Helen Barlow