×
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.

WINNERS OF THE EL GOUNA FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS

FEATURE NARRATIVE COMPETITION

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”

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

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

SHORT FILMS

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

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Rocketman

    Candid 'Rocketman' Dares to Show Elton John as 'Vulnerable,' 'Damaged,' 'Ugly'

    Elton John movie “Rocketman” dares to portray the singer’s personality early in his career to have been, at times, “ugly,” Taron Egerton – who plays the pop star – told an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios Friday, following a screening of 15 minutes of footage from the film. It is a candid portrayal, showing [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck's Addiction Drama Set for Awards-Season Release

    Warner Bros. has given Ben Affleck’s untitled addiction drama an awards-season-friendly release date of Oct. 18. The film, which has been known previously as “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Affleck as a former basketball player struggling with addiction, which has led to him losing his wife. As part of [...]

  • Jordan Peele'Us' film premiere, Arrivals, New

    Jordan Peele Explains the Meaning Behind the 'Us' Michael Jackson Reference

    Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us” is filled with pop culture references, from “Jaws” to “Goonies.” But the most divisive might be right in his opening sequence. Warning, minor spoilers ahead. The movie about a couple (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children being hunted and brutalized by a mysterious family that looks just [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content