The CIFF’s 40th edition will kick off Wednesday with both pride and fear. With a long history since it was first established in 1976, and with many moments of happiness and victory along with a few inevitable challenges and obstacles, the CIFF—being the only film festival in the Middle East that manages to reach such a huge number of editions—is certainly something to be proud of.
However, it’s also something that invites fear because of the formidable responsibility that such a long history places upon the shoulders of the festival’s team, the management of which is new this year, and is headed by producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy, the youngest president in the festival’s history. Together with the festival’s historic symbol and its Artistic Director Youssef Cheriff Rizkallah, Hefzy created an edition whose primary motto is to go international, and which declares the necessity of bearing the cultural, artistic, and historical responsibility of being the largest film festival in the Arab world.
The motto of the CIFF’s 40th edition will be realised through focusing attention on two main groups which the festival seeks to entertain throughout its 10 days, and these are cinema audiences and filmmakers. As for the former, the programme-designing team has been working for months on bringing to the festival over 160 of the newest and most renowned films from more than 59 countries, and on canvassing these films in a rich programme which seeks to entertain and enlighten its audience all the same.
Audiences will be able to watch this year’s chosen films not only in the usual venues, i.e. the Cairo Opera House’s halls, but also in many other parts of Cairo in a huge expansion movement. Among these venues in Cairo’s downtown area, Zamalek, the Sixth of of October, and finally in the Fifth Settlement area, making this year’s edition of the festival more widespread than ever. What is even more gratifying this year is that the CIFF has added a people’s choice award for the first time in its history. The award, which is valued at $20,000, will be given to the film which gets a majority vote by the Cairo audience, and it is to be equally shared between the film’s producer and its local distributor, thus the CIFF is contributing to the distribution of a film that audiences in Egyptian theatres choose and love.
As for filmmakers, they will enjoy a prominent presence in the festival’s proceedings, and this will take place through launching the first edition of the Cairo Industry Days platform, which runs for 5 days and which includes various activities that seek to reinforce the cinema industry in Egypt, and in the entire Arab region. In addition, there is a new edition of the Cairo Film Connection Forum where film projects in the stages of production and post-production will compete for an award valued at $110,000. There is also going to be a large number of lectures, panel discussions, and film lessons given by world’s first-class experts, besides the great opportunity that the festival provides for Egyptian and Arab filmmakers, for cinema-industry supporting authorities, for other international festivals, and for the industry’s decision-makers to communicate and to make connections.
Recommended films from the Main Competition:
A Twelve-Year Night
La noche de 12 años
Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, France
Fiction, 2018, Color, 123 min.
1973. Uruguay is governed by a military dictatorship. One autumn night, Tupamaro prisoners are taken from their prison cells in a secret military operation. The order is precise: “As we can’t kill them, let’s drive them mad”. The three men will remain in solitary confinement for twelve years. Among them is Pepe Mujica – later to become president of Uruguay.
Fiction, 2018, 91′
Amin came from Senegal nine years ago to work in France, leaving behind his wife Aïsha and their three children. His work is his life, as well as his friends, the men who live with him in the social home. One day, Amin meets Gabrielle and a relationship starts between them. At first, Amin is reserved because of the language barrier and his modesty. So far, separated from his wife, he has led a life devoted to duty and knew he had to remain vigilant.
Birds of Passage
Pájaros de verano
Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra
Colombia, Denmark, Mexico, France
Fiction, 2018, 125’
Documenting the true- life rise and fall of rival Wayuu clans in northern Colombia, the latest film by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, Birds of Passage is an unexpected take on the cartel genre. With incredible attention to the detail of Colombia’s indigenous Wayuu customs, traditions, and celebrations, Gallego and Guerra weave an epic tragedy of pride, greed, and the clash between the old and new worlds.
Germany, Ukraine, France, Netherlands, Romania
Fiction – 2018 – 121’
In the Donbass, a region of Eastern Ukraine, a hybrid war takes place, involving an open-armed conflict alongside killings and robberies on a mass scale perpetrated by separatist gangs. In the Donbass, war is called peace, propaganda is uttered as truth and hatred is declared as love.
Fiction – 2018 – 115’
Matteo is a young successful audacious, charming and energetic businessman. Ettore, on the other hand, is a calm, righteous, second-grade teacher, always living in the shadows and still in the small town, where they both grew up. They are brothers but with diametrically opposed personalities. Life forces them back together, and a difficult situation results in them getting to know and rediscover each other, in a vortex of fragility and euphoria.
Ahmad Abdalla El Sayed
Egypt, the United Arab Emirates
Fiction – 2018 – 98’
Moe has problems. His film set is filled with off-screen drama. His novelist friend has landed in prison for publishing “profound language”, and his girlfriend just left him. Plus, all he really wants to do is work on his films, not the commercial gigs he’s been taking. With all this on his plate, the last thing he relishes is finishing editing across town. Goaded into this by his team, he has no idea how long his day is about to become.
I act, I am
Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Fiction – 2018 – 105’
While preparing for the part of a thief, a young actress actually begins stealing in real life. During his research for the part of a bum, another theatre actor wanders around shelters trying to make friends with the homeless. The actor and the actress are playing a passionate couple in a TV soap opera. After production is over, he obsessively pursues her, claiming to be in love.
Thailand, France, China
Fiction – 2018 – 105’
Near a coastal village in Thailand, by the sea where thousands of Rohingya refugees have drowned, a local fisherman finds an injured man lying unconscious in the forest. He rescues the stranger, who does not speak a word, offers him his friendship and names him Thongchai. But when the fisherman suddenly disappears at sea, Thongchai slowly begins to take over his friend’s life – his house, his job, and his ex-wife.
Fiction – 2018 – 92’
The clashing of two very different worlds results in a tragic love story set against a backdrop of violent social unrest.
Fiction – 2018 – 99’
A mother of three, Anna is constantly running around – from work to the nursery, to school, to ballet, to fencing class. As if this wasn’t enough, she suspects that her husband is cheating on her. Her issues are hardly unique, but she simply has no time to stop and think them through.
Fiction – 2018 – 96’
Elpida, a middle-aged housewife, is trapped in the misery of an oppressive marriage, with a man who has no consideration for her feelings and needs. Her monotonous life is disrupted when a young painter is employed to paint the building she lives in. Her imagination then starts to flourish as she is confronted with her unquenchable desires, her body, and the husband she has no love for.
The Third Wife
Fiction – 2018 – 94’
In 19th century rural Vietnam, 14-year-old May becomes the third wife of wealthy landowner Hung. Soon she learns that she can only gain status by asserting herself as a woman who can give birth to a male child. May’s hope to change her status turns into a real and tantalising possibility when she gets pregnant. Faced with forbidden love and its devastating consequences, May finally comes to an understanding of the brutal truth: the options available to her are few and far between.
Norway / Sweden / France
Animation – 2018 – 80′
In contemporary Beirut, Lebanon, Wardi, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl, lives with her whole family in the refugee camp where she was born. Her beloved great-grandfather Sidi was one of the first people to settle in the camp, after being chased from his home back in 1948. The day Sidi gives her the key to his old house back in Galilee, she fears he may have lost hope of someday going home. As she searches for Sidi’s lost hope around the camp, she will collect her family’s testimonies, from one generation to the next.