Cairo fest takes China’s high ‘Road’

Jiarui's film wins Golden Pyramid at 30th Cairo Film Festival

CAIRO — Zhang Jiarui’s “The Road” took the top Golden Pyramid for film at the 30th Cairo Film Festival. Event, which opened Nov. 28, concluded Friday with a glittering closing ceremony.

Jury prexy Luis Puenzo said “The Road” is a “great tale of history and love amidst China’s sweeping landscape.” Pic also drew the actress gong for Zhang Jingchu and special mention for Fan Wei.

Eighteen films from 15 countries competed. Other winners were Iranian director Khosro Masoumi for “Somewhere Too Far”; Argentina’s Nicholas Mateo, who took actor kudos for “Speed Begets Oblivion”; and “Sankara,” by Sri Lanka’s Prasanna Jayakody, which took home the Silver Pyramid Special Jury Prize.

Digital films competed for the first time, with the $10,000 feature prize going to “Beneath the Same Moon,” from Italy’s Carlo Luglio.

The $17,500 cash fest fave prize for Arabic film was shared by Algeria-France’s “Barakat,” by Djamila Sahraoui, and Egypt’s “Cut and Paste,” by Hala Khalil; latter also received the Naguib Mafouz prize for directorial debut.

Fest paid tribute to Nobel Prize winner Mafouz, who died this year, by showing films made from his books and scripts.

Celebrating its 30th year as it faces new competition from fests such as Dubai, which follows on its heels, the Cairo fest turned to private sponsorship for the first time. The estimated $10 million budget was co-sponsored by Egypt telecom giant Orascom.

Omar Sharif lent his dazzling smile as honorary fest prexy, with actor Ezzat Abu Auf the president of the event.

Among those present for tributes were Jacqueline Bisset (whose latest film, John Irvin’s “The Fine Art of Love,” was featured at the fest), French singer Charles Aznavour, Argentine actress Mia Maestro and Danny Glover, who told a cheering audience, “Everyone in the world has a role to play toward humanity.”

Films from Latin America were highlighted, with 17 films from seven countries and eight premieres.

An antipiracy seminar organized by Egypt’s Assn. for Protecting Intellectual Property Rights with U.S. Chamber of Commerce affiliate Center for Intl. Private Enterprise delved into rampant film and digital piracy issues in Egypt and other countries. Participants included Egypt Competitiveness Council chairman Helmy Abol Eish, lawyer Ahmed Abou Ali and producer Flavio Tambelini, who spoke about fighting piracy in his native Brazil.

Film fest market remained weak, with mostly TV participants, but Orascom chief Naguib Sawiris launched his satellite channel OTV at the market with much fanfare.

Sherif Awad contributed to this report.