CIFF 44 – A disappointing record

The 44th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) ended Tuesday evening with a closing ceremony during which the prizes awarded by the various juries were unveiled.

It’s the movie alamby Palestinian director Firas Khoury, who was the big winner, having not only won the Pyramide d’Or for best film, but also the ex aequo prize for Best actor for the young Mahmoud Bakri and the audience award, which during the screening had applauded the film on several occasions.

alam which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), is a France, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Qatar and Palestine co-production and was shot entirely in Tunisia.


Tamer, a Palestinian student, doesn’t get involved in politics; at the same time, the memory of his uncle, an activist physically broken by imprisonment, weighs heavily on his mind. As soon as he appears, he is attracted by a new classmate, the beautiful, spontaneous and politically engaged Maysaa. To impress him, Tamer drags his buddies into “Operation: Flag of Maysaa”. This act of resistance aims to replace the Israeli school flag with the Palestinian flag on Israeli Independence Day, which is a day of mourning for Palestinians as they commemorate the “Nakba” – the catastrophe. Under Maysaa’s influence, Tamer’s political consciousness awakens and he decides to participate in his very first demonstration.

The Silver Pyramid for Best Director went to Emmanuelle Niko for Love according to Dalvaa powerful drama about a 12-year-old girl who is raised in a reception center after her separation from her pedophile father and having had an incestuous relationship with her.

Love according to Dalva premiered at the Cannes Film Festival during Critics’ Week, where it won three prizes: the FIPRESCI Critics’ Prize, the Rail d’or and the Louis Roederer Prize for Newcomer Zelda Samson, which elsewhere also won the Best Actress Award during this 44th CIFF edition.

As for the Egyptian director Ahmed Abdallah, although his very fine film 19Breceived from the jury of the international competition only the Henry Baraket Prize for the best artistic contribution attributed to the director of photography Mustafa Al Kashef, his disappointment could not have been very great since he also won the FIPRESCI critics prize and the prize for the best Arab film in all sections.

Below is the full list:

The International Competition:

The members of the jury, the Japanese director Naomi Kawase president, the Mexican director Joaquín Del Paso, the Egyptian director of photography Nancy Abdelfattah, the Egyptian composer Rageh Daoud, the French actor Samir Guesmi, the Italian actress, director and screenwriter Stefania Casin and Indian actress Swara Bhasker, presented the following awards:

  • The Golden Pyramid for Best Film alam from Firas Khoury (Palestine);
  • The Silver Pyramid for Best Director Love according to Dalvaby Emmanuelle Nicot (Belgium);
  • The Bronze Pyramid for the best first or second work at bread and salt by Damien Cukor (Poland);
  • The Naguib Mahfouz Award for Best Screenplay at A man by Kei Ishikawa (Japan);
  • The Best Actor Award to Maher AlKhair for his role in The dam and to Mahmoud Bakri for his role in Alam;
  • Zelda The Samson Best Actress Award for her role in Love according to Dalva;
  • The Henry Baraket Award for Best Artistic Contribution to Mustafa AlKashef for the film 19B (Egypt).

The Horizons of Arab Cinema competition:

The members of the jury, the Lebanese director Michel Kammoun, the Tunisian producer Moufida Fedhila and the Egyptian costume designer Reem El Adl awarded the following prizes:

  • The Saad Eddin Wahba Award for Best Arab Film at Mother Valley by Carlos Chahine (Lebanon);
  • The Salah Abu Seif Special Jury Prize at river bed by Bassem Breche (Lebanon);
  • The Best Documentary Film Award at Far from the Nile by Sherief Elkatsha (Egypt);
  • The Best Performance Award to Carole Abboud for her role in river bed;
  • A Special Mention for the film I would stay there again by Yacine Redissi (Tunisia)
  • A Special Mention for the actress Lyna Khoudary for her role in the film Houria (Algeria).

International Critics’ Week:

The members of the jury, the Scottish director Ben Sharrock, the Lebanese critic Houda Ibrahim and the Egyptian actor Karim Kassem awarded the following prizes:

  • The Shadi Abdel Salam Award for Best Film at Pamfir by Dmytro Sokoletky Sobchuk (Ukraine);
  • The Fathy Farag Award for Best Artistic Contribution to joyland by Saim Sadiq (Pakistan);
  • A special mention to The victim by Michal Blasko (Slovakia).

The Short Film Competition:

The members of the jury, Egyptian director, screenwriter and producer Ahmed Amer, Italian director Michelangelo Frammartino and Tunisian actress Rym Turki awarded the following prizes:

  • The Youssef Chahine Award for Best Short Film at Rosemary AD (After Dad) by Ethan Barrett (USA);
  • The Special Jury Prize at My girl friend by Kawthar Younis (Egypt);
  • A special mention to One F*cking Wish by Piotr Jasinski (Czech Republic).

The Best Arab Film competition, all sections combined:

The members of the jury, the Egyptian actor Ahmed Magdy, the Polish programmer Dorota Lech and the Lebanese actress Nour awarded the following prizes:

  • The Prize for the best Arab film at 19B Ahmad Abdalla (Egypt);
  • A special mention for river bed of Bassem Breche (Lebanon).

The Critics Award:

The members of the jury, the Tunisian Henda Haouala, the Egyptian Mohamed Atef and Rita Di Santo awarded the FIPRESCI prize to 19B by Ahmad Abdalla (Egypt).

Audience Award went to alam of Firas Khoury (Palestine).

It is obvious that like all prize lists, this one is very subjective and could have been completely different with different juries. But he was widely criticized, even at the end of the ceremony. Indeed, this prize list did not in any way correspond to the predictions or expectations of each other. Some prizes are even amazing, such as the Bronze Pyramid in the film bread and salt by Damian Cukor, who according to an Egyptian critic even deserved the prize for the worst film. Why this price? Didn’t the jury find another first or second film to reward? Also, why are some popularly acclaimed films, such as island of forgiveness by Ridha Behi, who had been adored by Egyptian critics and the public, are they completely absent from the charts?

Regarding the Horizons of Arab Cinema competition, the awards are very surprising and disappointing. Why just a mention to the Tunisian film I would stay there again when everyone was unanimous in finding it very very good? Why did this same jury give two prizes to the Lebanese film river bed, when it is really very average? The award for best performance to Carole Abboud would have been more than enough, and moreover deserved because she really carried the film on her shoulders.

For the Egyptian critic Ahmed Saad Eddin ” 90% of the prices of this 44th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival are incomprehensible for the public and the critics, and even for the jury itself!!! “. And for critic Waleed Seif, this list is CIFF’s worst list in many years.

Perhaps, like the Cannes Film Festival, all film festivals should hold a jury press conference for their members to at least try to explain their choices.

Neila Driss

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CIFF 44 – A disappointing record

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