Egyptian film honored at Taormina

Matt Dillon joins gala evening at Sicilian fest

LONDON — East met West on Wednesday night in Taormina, as officials at the Sicilian fest honored a number of luminaries from the Egyptian film biz, celebrating its centenary.

Egyptian helmers Marwan Hamed (“The Yacoubian Building”) and Yousry Nasrallah (“Mercedes”), along with thesps Hend Sabry (“The Yacoubian Building”) and Khaled Nabawy (“Kingdom of Heaven”), were on hand to see legendary Egyptian thesp Yousra receive a Taormina Arte award, in the form of a Harry Winston watch.

The gala evening, punctuated by live musical interludes that fused Italian and Egyptian music, took place in the balmy setting of Taormina’s 2,300 year-old Greek theatre.

Egypt’s ambassador to Italy, Ashraf Rashed, attended the evening’s festivities, which included a screening of Egyptian helmer Oussama Fawzi’s “I Love Cinema,” one of the titles selected by the Alexandria Library in their selection of the 100 most important Egyptian films of all time.

Rashed quipped about the long-standing history of Egyptian-Italian relations dating back to the romance between Cleopatra and Mark Anthony before picking up the fest’s first AC Nielsen Award for Dialogue Between Cultures on behalf of Egyptian maven Naguib Sawiris, who had been unable to attend Taormina.

The highlight of the evening came at the end of the three-hour long event as Matt Dillon, who also received a Taormina Arte award, was jokingly harangued by Cairo intl. film fest veepee Suheir Abdulkader into attending this year’s fest, which unspools Nov. 27-Dec. 7. Abdulkader threatened to keep possession of the U.S. thesp’s own Harry Winston watch, reputedly worth $100,000, until he came to pick it up in person in Cairo. Having initially spoken of cinema’s ability to “transcend our cultural differences,” Dillon thanked Taormina artistic director Deborah Young before adding, “I guess I’ll get that watch when I see you all in Cairo.”

Taormina made a concerted effort to fete Egyptian cinema this year, screening seven of the Alexandria Library’s list, including Hala Khalil’s “Ahla Al Awkat” (The Best of Times); Marwan Hamed’s “The Yacoubian Building” and Daoud Abdel Sayed’s “The Citizen, The Detective and The Thief.”

The fest, which kicked off Jun 16. concludes Friday.

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