The management of the El Gouna Film Festival suffered quite the ordeal just hours before the inauguration of its fifth session as a massive fire broke out in the El Gouna Conference and Culture Center.
The fire devoured a small part of the hall prepared to receive the opening activities of the festival.
As soon as the fire occurred, festival management contacted the civil protection forces, and fire trucks were dispatched to control the fire.
Fourteen people who suffered from lung damage were treated, while eight of them were transferred to hospital.
The festival remains scheduled to receive 60 guests on its first day, Thursday, and will continue until October 22 in Gouna, Hurghada.
Shaabi singer Mohamed Ramadan will give an after-party concert, scheduled after the opening ceremony.
The festival’s program consists of three official competitions: the feature film competition, the feature documentary competition, and the short film competition. Another program is planned outside the competition schedule.
Sixteen films are competing in the feature film competition.
Egypt is represented by the 2021 95-minute film “Amira” (Princess), directed by Mohamed Diab, and co-produced by Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The film was shown internationally for the first time at the Venice Film Festival 2021, and won won awards: Lanterna Magica Award, the Interfilm Award and the CICT-UNESCO “Enrico Fulchignoni” Award.
Egypt’s second film in this category is “Reesh” (Feathers), directed by Omar al-Zuhairy, produced by Egypt, France, Holland, and Greece. It is 112 minutes long, it begins with the birthday of a six-year-old child, when a magician’s trick turns the family’s authoritarian father into a chicken.
The trick derails the family’s life down a path in which the wife self-discovers the possibility of living without patriarchal authority. When the father returns in his new form, he becomes a burden on the family – his long-awaited return now a great disappointment.
The film succeeded in winning the Critics’ Week Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes 2021.
Moroccan-French film “Aly Soatak” (Raise Your Voice), directed by Nabil Ayouch, is also taking part in the competition. It revolves around Anas, who works in a cultural center located in a shaabi neighborhood in Casablanca, and encourages his students to follow their passion and express themselves freely through hip-hop art.
Its screening in El Gouna Film Festival comes after the strong praise it achieved with its world premiere in the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival 2021.
The Finnish film “The Blind One Who Didn’t Want to Watch Titanic” produced by Teemu Niki, is one of this edition’s biggest films. It tells the story of Jaakko, a blind and paralyzed man who lives as a prisoner in his own home and loves Sirpa.
As a result of his blindness they communicate only through phone. Jaakko decides to leave home and find Sirpa with the help of five strangers after she received shocking news. The film won the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival 2021.
The Norwegian film “The Worst Person in the World”, directed by Joachim Trier produced by Norway, France, Sweden, and Denmark, tells of the chaotic life of thirty-something Julie.
She meets the young Evind in a party and separates from her boyfriend Axel, throwing herself into another relationship in the hopes that it will give her a new perspective on life.
Renate Reinsve won the award for Best Actress for her performance in the film at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Next is “Sunset”, directed by Michel Franco from Mexico, produced by France and Sweden. It discusses the story of Neil Bennett, a wealthy Briton who spends his vacation peacefully with his family in a luxury resort in Acapulco – until the death of a family member dampens the mood.
He, his sister Alison, and her children must return to London immediately, yet Bennett is reluctant and tries to put it off.
“Al-Bahr Amamakon” (The Sea Before You), directed by Elie Dagher, produced by Lebanon and France, tells the story of a Lebanese girl who is forced to return from France to her family’s home in Beirut after a series of horrible experiences there.
Also competing in is “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta”, a Bengali language Indian-French-Norwegian film directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta and produced by India and France, about a woman who loses her son and decides not to continue her marriage.
“Another World”, directed by Stephane Brize and produced by France discusses Philip’s life with his wife, whom he is separated from after their love is irreparably damaged due to the pressures of work.
“Clara Sola”, directed by Nathalie Álvarez Mesén and co-produced by Sweden, Belgium, Costa Rica, Germany, and “Costa Brava”, directed by Mounia Akl snd produced by Lebanon, France, Spain, and Norway are competing.
Also competing is “White Building”, directed by Cavis Nang, produced by Cambodia, France, and China. It tells the story of Samnang, aged 20, who lives with two friends in the middle of a poor neighborhood. The three dream of being in TV talent competitions, while their parents live a more traditional lifestyle. The building they live has to be demolished so Samnang’s father attempts to unite his divided neighbors to obtain government compensation for the demolition.
At the same time Samnang had to deal with the departure of his best friend from Cambodia.
Another award-nominated movie is “Compartment Number Six” directed by Juho Kuosmanen and produced by Finland, Germany, Estonia, and Russia.
It tells the story of a Finnish girl who rides a train to the Arctic port of Momansk to escape a failed relationship, and is forced to share the long journey in a tiny dormitory with a Russian miner. The unexpected encounter of the occupants of compartment number six leads them to face the truth about their yearning for human connection.
The film won the Grand Prix at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Happening at the Festival:
■ The El-Gouna Film Festival administration, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, launched a campaign to vaccinate all festival workers who did not receive the coronavirus vaccine. The campaign will continue until the end of the festival to vaccinate guests as well who did not receive the vaccine.
■ The fifth session includes about 80 diverse films to create better communication between cultures through the art of cinema. The value of the prizes presented were raised to US$224,000, in addition to the in-kind prizes, namely the El Gouna Star Award, and certificates. A new award was added this session titled “El Gouna Green Star”, to be dedicated to films concerned with environmental issues.
The festival screens a number of iconic classic films that have won the admiration of audiences over time.
The CineGouna Platform continues its role in supporting young filmmakers and offers prizes worth $250,000, for winning projects in development and winning films in post-production through two programs, the CineGouna SpringBoard and the CineGouna Bridge. The two programs provide opportunities for filmmakers to learn and participate in filmmaking workshops, panel discussions and round tables, in addition to lectures by film industry experts.
■ The festival’s management announced that Nardine Farag will be presenting the opening ceremony on Thursday, while the Jasmine Taha Zaki will present the closing ceremony on October 22.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm