Cairo Francophone Film Festival kicks off Sunday

The first session of the Cairo Francophone Film Festival kicked off on Sunday evening, with the opening ceremony held in the Small Hall of the Cairo Opera House.

The festival was headed by Yasser Moheb, and was attended by a group of filmmakers and artists, including the makers of the Egyptian film “al-Naharda Youm Gameel” (Today is a Beautiful Day), which is also competing for the festival’s prizes in the feature film competition.

The ceremony began with a documentary film on the close relation between Egyptian and French cinema, starting with the Lumiere brothers who introduced the first cinematic show to Egypt, passing by the use of the French language in Egyptian artwork, and going over international Egyptian stars who influenced Francophone cinema, including director Youssef Chahine and actors Omar al-Sharif and Dalida.

After the documentary, a stringed quartet from the Cairo Opera Orchestra played four pieces of the most famous Francophone music that were famous in the Egyptian society including “Helwa Ya Baladi” which Dalida sang for Egypt, accompanied by scenes from the most famous Francophone films.

At the beginning of his speech, Moheb thanked all the Egyptian ministries that were enthusiastic and facilitated all obstacles to bring this festival to light, with special thanks towards Minister of Culture Enas Abdel Dayem.

The festival enhances Egypt’s role in the Francophone Foundation through the adoption of a number of cinematic and artistic initiatives, Moheb said, stressing that despite the apologies that the festival faced from invited filmmakers due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was happy that the festival’s team was able to launch the first session after many months of effort.

“The festival is a message and not just an international cultural event. It is a message that aligns with the spirit and culture of Egypt, which is like the Francophone culture which defends freedom in all its forms, such as the freedom of thought, expression, and creativity,” he added.

Film is the strongest and most influential of the human arts, he said, in the midst of a flourishing Francophone film market, extending from Africa to the Americas, passing through the Caribbean, the Arab world, Europe and Asia, a market that includes 88 countries and governments with a total population of 1.5 billion people, representing 16 percent of the world’s population.

The festival opens to a cinema rich with different experiences, schools and visions that serve the development and promotion of Egyptian and Francophone cinema in its various artistic and cultural aspects, he continued.

Egypt is one of the main and pivotal active countries in the “Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie”, in line with Egypt’s keenness and interest in cooperation with member countries of the organization, Moheb explained.

Minister Plenipotentiary and Director of Francophone Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Khaled Aref, said he was honored to be present in the first session of the festival, adding that Egypt cooperated with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie through many Egyptian personalities such as Youssef Chahine, Dalida, Gameel Ratib and others.

The festival began its shows on Sunday with the second screening of the “al-Naharda Youm Gameel” film by director Nevin Shalaby in her first feature-length experience, which competes in the feature film competition.

It screened for the first time globally among 23 feature and short films from ten countries: France, Canada, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, Lebanon, Burkina Faso, and the UK.

The French film “Little Lesson of Love” and the Moroccan film “Love in Time of War” will were presented as well.

Director Hany Lashin will chair the jury of the competition for feature films and documentaries produced by the Francophone Organization member countries. Jury members include Ilham Shaheen and critic Amal Othman.

The first session of the Cairo Francophone Film Festival represents a major international cultural event, especially since it is held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and is the first of its kind in Egypt, said Lashin.

It is concerned with cinema presented by more than 88 French-speaking countries as an official language other than the mother tongue, he added.

Artist Salwa Mohamed Ali chaired the short film jury. Committee members included actress Nahid al-Sebaei, the director of documentary films Ezzedine Said and the Algerian critic Fatima Baroudy.

Short films play an important and prominent role in spreading awareness in society, Ali said.

“Undoubtedly, the value of the short film is increasing day by day, especially as it is commensurate with the increasing rhythmic nature of the era, although it is not easy to focus the artistic and human meaning in these films due to its short duration.”

Distinctive artwork in support of Francophone culture contribute greatly to cultural movement and the promotion of artistic exchange, as well as the development of cinema through organizing artistic events, she added.

More than 100 films have been submitted to the festival since the opening of submissions in early September, which continued until the beginning of November.

The festival is scheduled over five days, and includes a competition for feature films produced by the member states of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, in addition to another competition for documentaries and short films.

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