Details of this year's GFF have just been announced at a special press conference and it's shaping up to be spectacular.
It’s almost time. What has quickly become one of the most important events in the film industry and the most glamorous date on social calendars is set for a triumphant return between the 20th and 28th of September. Yes, the El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) is back and, following the rousing success of its debut last year, the second edition is already looking like quite the occasion, with American TV and film actor, Patrick 'McDreamy' Dempsey announced as special guest of this year's festival.
Details of this year’s festival were revealed at press conference on Tuesday 28th, which was attended by GFF founder, Naguib Sawires, and El Gounda founder, Samih Sawires, as well as Minister of Culture, Inas Abdel Dayem, and Minister of Tourism, Rania al-Mashat, alongside a selection of participating filmmakers and industry figures. And of course, a host of Egypt’s very finest were in attendance, including Mona Zaki, Bushra, Yousra, Hend Sabry – you get the picture. A star-studded event, indeed, but what else can we expect from this year’s GFF?
With a total of 78 films announced across all competitions and programs, this year’s slate of films, documentaries and shorts top last year’s overall count, with the Feature Narrative Competition (15 competing films), the Feature Documentary Competition (12 films) and the Short Film Competition (22 films) standing as the highlights of the nine-day spectacular.
“With GFF’s second edition, we are still seeking the same objectives we started with last year,” GFF director, Intishal Al Tamimi, said of this year’s festival. “To create a line-up with a balance between films that draw appreciation from critics and audiences alike, and that includes titles that have premiered in the top international festivals, in addition to securing certain titles to premiere in the festival.”
In addition, the festival’s special retrospective programs pulls together five films, while a further 24 films will be screened out-of-competition. Lasting one day longer than last year’s festival, the majority of the screenings will include Q&A sessions with the filmmakers and cast, while some of the Middle East’s movie-making VIPs are set to be honoured, including Egyptian director, Daoud Abdel Sayed, and Tunisian producer, Dora Bouchoucha, who will receive GFF’s Creative Achievement Award.
The competition juries, meanwhile, look further ashore for its film aficionados, with acclaimed Indian filmmaker, Mira Nair, heading a Feature Narrative Competition jury that also includes renowned Arab actor, Ali Soliman, Egyptian star, Mona Zaki, and acclaimed Moroccan director, Ahmed El Maanouni, as well as Croation director, Cedomir Kolar, and newly-appointed director of Berlin International Film Festival, Carlo Chatrian.
Elsewhere, Palestinian director, Rashid Masharawi, Tunisian filmmaker, Nejib Belkadhi, and seasoned film programmer, Ellie Derk, make up the jury for the Feature Documentary Competition.
The jury for the Short Film Competition isn’t to be shaken a stick at either, with Georgian actor and last year’s GFF Golden Star award winner, Ana Urushadze, Jordanian actress, Saba Mubarak, Austrian programmer, Doris Bauer, and, rather excitingly, Palerstinian powerhouse, Kamel El Basha – the winner of the Best Actor Award at last year’s Venice Film Festival.
SALUTING THE PAST
Last year’s festival saluted two cinematic greats in Youssef Chahine and Nasser Khmeir – and the former is back in the spotlight this year to mark the tenth anniversary of the director’s passing, in the form of an incredibly unique homage that includes a sweeping exhibition of his films’ posters, alongside some of his possession. Selected scenes from his works will also be screened as a special feature of what is essentially a mini-museum of sorts. The cherry on top, meanwhile, comes in the form of 50-strong orchestra led by Maestro Hisham Gabr, who will be performing excerpts of his film scores.
GFF will also pay tribute to two other giants of film this year – Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. An exhibition of Fellini’s notoriously colourful film posters will be on display to mark the 25th anniversary of the Italian director’s passing. Bergman, meanwhile, will be honoured with two screenings and a special photography exhibition organised in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy and Swedish Film Institute.
BUILDING THE FUTURE
While the the stars took the limelight last year, one of the GFF’s most interesting elements comes in the form of CineGouna. Building on the festival’s aim to showcase as diverse a range of films and cinematic viewpoints, the CineGouna presents a platform from which emerging Egyptian and Arab filmmakers can find their footing in what can be a notoriously difficult industry to break into. Made up of two programs, the inaugural edition of CineGouna welcomed over 500 industry professionals and press members who led the CineGuna Bridge panel discussions, workshops and masterclasses, as well as the CineGouna Springboard pitch sessions and meetings.
This year, the platform is working with 18 different projects, which were filtered through from 145 submissions – almost three times as many as last year. Even the grant and award money has increased from last year’s $60,000 to $150,000 this year.
Beyond the glitz and glam of it all, there’s a genuine enthusiasm surrounding GFF as it continues to provide a unique stage for the Middle East’s eclectic and rich film culture and bridging that with the global film community. With every corner of the industry seemingly welcoming it with open arms, the El Gouna Film Festival is already a juggernaut in the industry.