El Gouna Film Festival: Short film competition tackles social issues in the MENA region

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By Euronews
Excerpt from the film "Shakwa"
Excerpt from the film "Shakwa"   -  Copyright  El Gouna Film Festival

The El Gouna Film Festival has officially kicked off, under strict social distancing measures.

Amongst the three major prize-winning categories this year’s short film competition incorporates some 18 films, with the top winner claiming the El Gouna Golden Star for Short Film Award accompanied by $15,000.

I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face: star crossed

The Egyptian film I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face focuses on the story of a young man named Adam who embarks on a long journey to reunite with his loved one who has passed away.

Producers Mark Lofty and Muhammad Taymour alongside script consultant Mohamed Fawzy were present at the short film’s screening. The film will also be screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year, making it the first Egyptian film to do so in 50 years, with the director Sameh Alaa in attendance.

“We shot one month before the global pandemic,” Taymour told Euronews. “It’s important for me, not only to represent the festivals outside Egypt but also in Egypt. We were really happy with this premier. This film was made for the Egyptian people.”

The film explores topics of feminism through the eyes of Adam, who dressed in a burqa travels to see his loved one. Script consultant Mohamed Fawzy believes the discussion of women is key to the film industry in this day and age.

“Feminism is not just about the rights of women, but it’s also about the equality of the old structure of masculinity, and reproducing a new role for both men and women to be equal,” says Fawzy. “Of course, the film is more of a Romeo-Juliet love story…if you think back to their story, Shakespeare did this, Romeo was not your typical masculine guy, partly we went on the same road.”

The short heavily focuses on the use of sound design which was incorporated into the screenplay from the start.

“We’ve worked on the film since 2018. Part of the development was knowing when to use sound design. We thought about it, when we would do the silence, and when we would raise the voices from behind the ambience and all of these things. It was perfectly and intricately planned,” the script consultant told Euronews.

Shakwa: bureaucracy and abuse

Lebanese filmmaker Farah Shaer’s film Shakwa tells the story of Hoda who secretly leaves her house to report a crime her husband has committed.

Shakwa explores the relationship between women and the male gaze through the specific use of camera movement, which in the film is one continuous take.

“I wanted the audience to be fully focused on her [Hoda] and follow her journey,” says Farah. “The fact that we don’t see the police men is because he is not only representing himself, it's him representing the whole regime, the whole patriarchal society, the laws in general. That’s why I thought of having him not visible throughout the whole film.”

The film plays out inside an office with the actors moving in and out of frame. Reminiscent of techniques used in the theater, Farah, an actress with a theater background, says theater influenced the film’s rehearsals which were long and executed as if they were to perform a play.

Given the film's strong themes of rape, abuse, and governmental bureaucracy, Farah had to seek funding outside her native Lebanon.

“This project is fully funded by the Royal film commission in Jordan. It is a segment in an anthology film about Arab women. I was lucky to have the full fund to be able to make this film. As a Lebanese filmmaker, due to the fact that we live in a corrupted robed country, we don’t have funds for films from the government,” the filmmaker told Euronews.