The curtain has come down on the first edition of Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival, whose main aim is to shine the light on humanitarian cinema.
Best Arab Feature Documentary went to ‘Soufra’, the story of a girl in a refugee camp near Beirut, who tries to set up a catering business. Director by US filmmaker Thomas Morgan, it also received the ‘Cinema for Humanity’ prize.
“People have been amazing to us all week, the facilities have been great, parties have been over the top,” said the director on the red carpet.
Georgian first-time director Ana Urushadze took the festival’s top feature film prize for ‘Scary Mother’, the story of a 50-year-old housewife struggling to choose between her family life and a passion for writing. The film, which also recently won the Sarajevo Film Festival’s top prize, has been selected as Georgia’s entry for the foreign-language Oscar.
Best Actress went to Morocco’s Nadia Kounda for her role in low-rent love story ‘Volubilis’. Mexico’s Daniel Gimenez Cacho, who plays the main role in Lucrecia Martel’s long-awaited epic ‘Zama’, picked up the Best Actor gong.
The bronze star for Best Short went to ‘Mama Bobo’ by Ibrahima Seydi and Robin Andelfinger.
The festival drew a host of global celebrities including award-winning director Oliver Stone, Egyptian actor and singer Khaled Selim, Egyptian actress Engi Al-Moqqadem and Tunisian mega-star Dorra Zarrouk. Stone gave a masterclass at the festival as did Oscar-winning actor-director Forest Whitaker, who received a lifetime achievement award.
A CineGouna Platform was also organised as part of the event to bring together Egyptian and Arab film industry professionals and their international counterparts.
Held in the high-end Red Sea resort of El Gouna, the festival is backed by Egyptian telecom billionaire Naguib Sawiris, majority shareholder of Euronews.
“It’s normal that the private sector should play a role in supporting the cinema industry,” he said. “Egyptian cinema is one of the most important in the region and people see us through our cinema.”
“They say Cairo is the Hollywood of the whole Middle East,” said US actress and singer Vanessa Williams. “It all happens here, it all happens in Egypt, so all the greatest actors come from here and they’ve got all the great writers and production.”
The El Gouna Film Festival featured a host films from 36 different counties, including a couple of world premieres, and handed out competition winners prizes exceeding US$ 200,000.