Spanish-Italo co-prod tops Cairo; security tight

CAIRO — The Cairo festival jury was enamored with a Titanic picture and no, it wasn’t the $200 million Hollywood epic, but the French-Spanish-Italian co-prod “La Femme de Chambre du Titanic” (The Chamber-maid and the Titanic).

Pic nabbed three major prizes — Golden Pyramid for best film, best director to its Catalan helmer Bigas Luna and best script for Luna and his collaborator, Cuca Canals — in a field of 17 competition films entered in the 21st Cairo International Film Festival (Dec. 1-14).

At the same time, extreme security measures were the order of the day at this year’s annual Cairo event, because it opened only two weeks after the massacre by Islamic extremists of 58 foreign tourists in the southern Egyp-tian tourist mecca of Luxor.

The grounds around the fest guest hotel, the Gezira Sheraton, were bristling with police sharpshooters, and Beretta-toting policemen roamed the hotel’s expansive lobby. The 18 fest screening venues around the city were likewise tightly guarded.

The Luxor killings made world headlines and promise to wreck Egypt’s peak winter tourist season this year. Clearly, the government wanted no more such headlines as a result of the fest.

Even with the tight security meas-ures, a number of the fest’s invited guests opted not to make the trek, including Brit helmer Alan Parker, U.S. director Sydney Pollack and French actor Alain Delon, all of whom were subjects of retros.

British actress Charlotte Rampling turned up and helped pass out awards at the closing ceremonies.

The international jury, headed by Chicago Film Fest honcho Michael Kutza, awarded best actor to Davar Jenjek in “Outsider” from Slovenia. Best actress kudos went to Reem Turki for her role in the Tunisian film “Keswa” (The Lost Thread).

Moroccan helmer Nabil Ayouch garnered best film by a first-time director for “Maktoub” (Predestined).

More than 230 films from 43 countries were unspooled at the event. The U.S. led the pack with 35. Fest preemed with the Madonna-starrer “Evita” and closed with Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet.”

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