You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Scary Mother’ Takes Top Nod at Egypt’s Inaugural El Gouna Fest

'Soufra,' executive-produced by Susan Sarandon, takes two prizes

ROME – The first edition of Egypt’s ambitious El Gouna Film Festival wrapped Friday with psychological thriller “Scary Mother,” by Georgian first-time director Ana Urushadze, taking the Golden Star, the fest’s top feature film competition prize. The prize was awarded by a jury headed by U.S. producer Sarah Johnson (“Birdman”).

Oscar-winning actor-director Forest Whitaker was celebrated with a lifetime achievement award during the closing ceremony in the festival’s open-air auditorium, also attended by Oliver Stone. Both men held master classes.

Besides a trophy, “Scary Mother” (pictured), which is about a 50-year-old housewife struggling to choose between her family life and a passion for writing, scored $50,000 in prize money, to be divided equally between the director and the main producer. The film – a co-production between Georgia’s Studio Artzim and Gemini and Estonia’s Allfilm – also recently won the Sarajevo Film Festival’s top prize, and is Georgia’s selection for the foreign-language Oscar.

French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult” took the El Gouna Silver Star nod, on the heels of scooping the best actor prize in Venice. Doueiri was also honored during El Gouna with the Variety MENA Talent of the Year Award.

“The Insult,” which tells the story of a slur that ends up pitting a Lebanese Christian auto mechanic against a Palestinian Muslim in a publicly divisive court case, is currently No. 1 at the Lebanese box office, despite a failed attempt to censor the film. Doueiri was even detained briefly at the Beirut airport.

El Gouna’s Bronze Star went to Russian drama “Arrhythmia,” about a hard-drinking paramedic’s domestic woes. “Photocopy,” by Egyptian first-timer Tamer Ashry, took the nod for best Arabic feature.

Acting honors went to Moroccan actress Nadia Kounda, for her role in low-rent love story “Volubilis” and to Mexican actor Daniel Gimenez Cacho, who plays the titular role in Lucrecia Martel’s historical epic “Zama,” about an officer of the Spanish crown.

U.S. titles fared well in the documentary competition. Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro,” about African-American writer James Baldwin, scored the top nod, worth $30,000. World premiere “Soufra,” a doc executive-produced by Susan Sarandon about a group of women in the Bur El Barajneh refugee camp south of Beirut who set up a catering business, took the section’s Mentor Arabia Award. Directed by Thomas Morgan, “Soufra” (Arabic for “feast”) also won the fest’s audience-chosen Cinema for Humanity award.

Backed by Egyptian telecom billionaire Naguib Sawiris and directed by prominent Arab cinema programmer Intishal Al Timini, the inaugural Sept. 21-29 event held in the high-end El Gouna Red Sea resort kicked off with a nationally televised opening ceremony extravaganza during which iconic Egyptian actor Adel Emam was honored and U.S. thesp Michael Madsen took the stage. Dylan McDermott and Emmanuelle Béart were also spotted mingling with the top echelons of the Egyptian film industry, which is the Arab world’s cinematic powerhouse.

Thanks to the organizers’ deep pockets, Al Timimi’s expertise, a pleasant setting, and a competitive calendar slot, El Gouna is well positioned to gain prominence on the volatile Middle East film festival landscape.

But the fest will have to improve its organization, which at times was almost shambolic. Drivers got lost, the inaugural screening was halted because the open-air screen had shadows on it that marred the film’s visibility, and official parties were held without bothering to send out invitations. The press office did not open before 10 a.m., and journalists were left to their own devices.

Still, as one U.S. producer put it: “They got the movies here, and they got plenty of people to come. For a first edition, that’s pretty good.”

France’s Wild Bunch, Memento, and Asia’s Fortissimo, as well as Middle Eastern outfits including distributors Front Row, Eagle Films and broadcasters MBC, Rotana Media Group, and OSN attended the CineGouna co-production platform for Arab narrative and documentary projects in either development or post-production, a new incubator and funding source for Arab cinema. It will be interesting to see if and how El Gouna’s industry side will mesh with other existing support platforms on the Arab fest circuit.



Golden Star: “Scary Mother,” Ana Urushadze

Silver Star: “The Insult,” Ziad Dower

Bronze Star: “Arrhythmia,” Boris Khlebnikov

Golden Star for Best Arabic Feature Film: “Photocopy,” Tamer Ashry

Best Actress: Nadia Kounda, “Volubilis”

Best Actor: Daniel Gimenez Cacho, “Zama”


Golden Star: “I am Not Your Negro,” Raoul Peck

Silver Star: “Brimstone and Glory,” Viktor Jakovleski

Bronze Star: “Mrs Fang,” Wang Bing

Golden Star For Best Arabic Documentary: “I Have a Picture,”

Mohamed Zedan

Mentor Arabia Award: “Soufra,” Thomas Morgan


Golden Star: “Nightshade,” Shady El-Hamus

Silver Star: “Merry Go-Round,” Ruslan Bratov

Bronze Star: “Mama Bobo,” Robin Andelfinger, Ibrahima Seydi

Golden Star For Best Arabic Short: “Punchline,” Christophe M. Saber

Film Factory Award: “Baghdad Photographer,” Majd Hameed

Cinema For Humanity Prize (Audience Award): “Soufra”

More Film

  • Murder Mystery

    Netflix Reveals Record-Breaking Stats for Sandler-Aniston 'Murder Mystery' Flick

    “Murder Mystery,” the latest Adam Sandler film to debut on Netflix, broke viewing records on the streaming service, the company revealed Tuesday. The film, which is co-headlined by Jennifer Aniston, was seen by close to 30.9 million households in its first 3 days, according to a tweet sent out Tuesday afternoon. 🚨ADAM SANDLER AND JENNIFER [...]

  • Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Refusing

    Writers Guild 'Plans to Respond' to Agents' Proposal as Frustration Mounts

    In a sign of increasing frustration, Hollywood agents have accused the Writers Guild of America of foot-dragging in the bitter two-month dispute. “It has become clear as more days pass that the Guild is not interested in making a deal,” said the negotiating committee for the agents in statement issued Tuesday. “Over the past year, [...]

  • Jermaine Fowler arrives at the 69th

    Jermaine Fowler to Co-Star With Eddie Murphy in 'Coming 2 America' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jermaine Fowler is set to play one of the leads opposite Eddie Murphy in Paramount’s sequel “Coming 2 America,” sources tell Variety. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is on board to direct the pic with the studio planning an August 7, 2020 release. Plot details of “Coming 2 America” are unknown, as are the [...]

  • Henry Golding attends the Fragrance Foundation

    Henry Golding Starts Long House Shingle With 'Inheritance,' 'Harrington's Greatest Hits'

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has started Long House Productions in partnership with China’s Starlight Cultural Entertainment Group with two features in the works. Golding’s first feature under the Long House banner is action adventure “The Inheritance,” based on an original story idea by Alistair Hudson and Golding. Hudson is writing the script for [...]

  • Max Landis Entertainment Weekly party, Comic-Con

    Max Landis Accused of Rape, Assault and Psychological Abuse

    Screenwriter Max Landis is facing allegations of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation from eight women who told their stories to the Daily Beast. Two of the women spoke on the record, and another five were identified by pseudonyms. An eighth women confirmed that she filed a police complaint against Landis in 2008, in which she [...]

  • Michael Fassbender'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' film premiere,

    Michael Fassbender to Produce, Star in Lionsgate Spy Thriller 'Malko'

    Michael Fassbender will produce and star in the Lionsgate spy thriller “Malko,” based on Gerard de Villiers’ S.A.S. series, with the studio planning to launch a franchise with the project. Eric Warren Singer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “American Hustle,” will write the screenplay. Joe Drake, chairman of [...]

  • American Film Institute Hires Susan Ruskin

    Susan Ruskin Appointed AFI Conservatory Dean

    The American Film Institute has named producer and educator Susan Ruskin as dean of the AFI Conservatory, where she will lead AFI’s graduate film-training program. Ruskin, who will also carry the title of executive VP, will report directly to Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO, the organization announced Tuesday. She replaces producer Richard Gladstein, who left [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content