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Cairo fest expands scope

CAIRO – By most accounts, the 20th annual Cairo Intl. Film Festival, which closed Sunday, presented an unusually interesting and wide-ranging array of pics, and for once was not dominated by Stateside movies.

Some 220 films from 41 countries were unspooled. U.S. participation (37 titles) took a back seat to Italy, with 39 titles. Even tiny Armenia was high-profile, with 13 films, and there were entries from such previously underrepresented countries as Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau. The Arab world also was out in force and dominated fest’s major awards – despite an acknowledged crisis in Arab filmmaking.

A major glitch turned up in the international competition section when two of the entered films (“The Whims of a River” from France and “My Generation” from Italy) were dropped after it was discovered that both had already won awards in other international fests.

The international jury, chaired by Gian Luigi Rondi, president of the Venice Bienalle, had 18 films from 15 countries to consider for fest’s top awards. International jury gave Egypt’s “A Girl Called Apple” by Rifaat el Mihi the Golden Pyramid award for best film. Silver Pyramid special jury prize went to Algeria’s “Salut Cousin” by Belkassom Hadjaj.

Best actor award went to Egyptian thesp Abu Bakr Ezzat for his role in “The Woman and the Hatchet.” Actress award went to Julia Jaegar in Germany’s “Outside Time.” Best director was Pantelis Voulagis of Greece for “Acropole.”

The Naguib Mahfouz award for best first or second film by a director was given to Sandrine Veysset of France for “Will There Be Snow at Christmas?”

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