×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Forest Whitaker to Be Feted by Egypt’s New El Gouna Film Festival; Lineup Announced (EXCLUSIVE)

ROME – Oscar-winning actor-director Forest Whitaker will be feted with a lifetime achievement award by Egypt’s new El Gouna Film Festival, which will open its first edition later this month with the Middle Eastern premiere of Egyptian director Amr Salama’s “Sheikh Jackson.” The closing film will be Chinese artist-filmmaker Ai Weiwei’s “Human Flow,” about the global refugee crisis.

Whitaker, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland,” was praised by the El Gouna’s artistic director, Intishal Al Timimi, for playing roles with “significant social and human dimensions.” Whitaker is expected to attend the Sept. 22-29 festival to receive the award during its closing ceremony. The slogan of the fest’s inaugural edition is “Cinema for Humanity.”

Located in the high-end El Gouna Red Sea resort and backed by Egyptian telecom billionaire Naguib Sawiris, the ambitious fest is likely to shake up the volatile Middle East film festival landscape thanks to its deep pockets, expertise, and a competitive calendar slot. Al Timimi is the former Arab cinema programmer of the Abu Dhabi film festival and its SANAD film fund for Arab cinema, both of which were shuttered in 2015.

The Middle East has a history of new film events, such as Abu Dhabi and the Doha/Tribeca fest, that launch with fanfare, then fold within several years.

The El Gouna lineup consists of three competition sections — for narrative features, documentaries, and shorts — plus an out-of-competition strand. This year’s selection is mostly made up of Middle Eastern premieres of some of the year’s top titles on the international festival circuit, from Venice and Toronto in particular, plus a handful of world premieres of mostly Arab titles.

Films competing for cash prizes totaling $210,000 include terrorism-themed “After the War” by Italy’s Annarita Zambrano; workplace thriller “Corporate” by France’s Nicolas Silhol; Syrian refugee drama “The Other Side of Hope” by Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki; and “No Bed of Roses” (aka “Doob”) by Bangladeshi helmer Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, based on a celebrity scandal that shook conservative society in his country.

Four Arab features will compete for awards: Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri’s courtroom drama “The Insult”; Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi’s social drama “Volubilis”; “Photocopy,” by Egyptian first-timer Tamer Ashry; and “Sheikh Jackson,” the opener, which is about a Muslim cleric obsessed with Michael Jackson. “Sheikh Jackson” is this year’s Egyptian foreign Oscar contender.

There is no section reserved only for Arab titles because “we do not want to create a ghetto,” Al Timimi said.

Several documentaries are world-premiering in El Gouna, such as Susan Sarandon-produced refugee camp-themed “Soufra” by U.S. director Thomas Morgan (“Waiting For Mamu”); “I Have a Picture” by Egypt’s Mohamed Zedan, which delves into Egyptian film history; and “17” by Jordan’s Widad Shafakoj, about the groundbreaking Jordanian under-17 women’s world cup soccer team.

On the market side, El Gouna is launching the CineGouna co-production platform for Arab narrative and documentary projects in either development or post-production. Companies expected to make the trek include France’s Wild Bunch, Memento, and Asia’s Fortissimo, as well as Middle Eastern outfits such as distributor Eagle Films and broadcasters MBC, Rotana Media Group, and OSN.

U.S. screenwriters Jeff Stockwell (“The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”) and Richard Tanne (“Southside With You”) will jointly hold an onstage conversation. The University of Southern California’s American Film Showcase will hold a screenwriting workshop for young Arab writers.

Al Timini said that, compared to other Middle Eastern fests, El Gouna’s market and mentoring components are boosted by the fact that Egypt remains the region’s film industry powerhouse despite the country’s turbulence.

“There are other solid film festivals in the region,” including Dubai, Carthage, and Marrakesh, he said. “We are competing with them, but also complementing them.”

More Film

  • Paul Feig Heads to Universal From

    Paul Feig's Feigco Entertainment Jumps From Fox to First-Look Deal at Universal

    Universal’s comedy constellation just added another star, welcoming Paul Feig from 20th Century Fox Film on Thursday. Universal has set a first-look production agreement with Feig’s Feigco Entertainment, bringing in the prolific producer, writer, and director known for hits like “Bridesmaids” and the recent “A Simple Favor.” News of Feig’s relocation shook out of a [...]

  • The Fault in Our Stars

    Disney Retiring Fox 2000 Label

    Disney will stop making films under the Fox 2000 label, a move that could mean that its head Elizabeth Gabler will not be making the move to the Magic Kingdom, Variety has learned. The decision is surprising because Disney had previously stated that Gabler would stay on board at the studio even after it was [...]

  • Macon Blair27th Annual Gotham Independent Film

    Macon Blair to Direct and Write 'Toxic Avenger' Reboot for Legendary (EXCLUSIVE)

    Macon Blair has been tapped to write and direct Legendary’s reboot of the cult classic “The Toxic Avenger,” sources tell Variety. Legendary acquired the feature film rights in December and have quickly made the project a high priority at the studio. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers with Alex [...]

  • Danny Boyle Bond 25

    Danny Boyle Calls His Exit From 'Bond 25' a 'Great Shame'

    Director Danny Boyle has finally spoken out after leaving the upcoming 25th James Bond movie over creative differences. After splitting from the new 007 flick last August, Boyle told Empire in a story published on Thursday that the script he penned with his “Trainspotting” co-writer John Hodge “wasn’t finished, but it could have been really [...]

  • Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    An elegiac documentary exploring the brief life of rapper Lil Peep, “Everybody’s Everything” certainly doesn’t lack for perspectives. Interviewing virtually everyone who knew the musician (born Gustav Ahr), directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan cover the waterfront, from Peep’s family to his girlfriends, his innumerable collaborators, his managers and his fans, trying to distill exactly [...]

  • A Brinks armored truck pulls into

    Fox Layoffs: Distribution and Marketing Leaders Out

    Layoffs have hit Fox following the entertainment company’s sale to Disney. The staff cuts are hitting employees at the SVP, EVP, and president level. Senior staff is expected to be among the first to be impacted. However, the cuts will be deep, with the ax falling hardest of Fox’s film team. There could be as [...]

  • Emily Blunt in Talks for Inspirational

    Emily Blunt in Talks to Star in Annapurna Drama 'Not Fade Away'

    Emily Blunt is in negotiations to star in Annapurna’s inspirational drama “Not Fade Away” with David O. Russell and John Krasinski producing. The project is based on Rebecca Alexander’s 2015 memoir “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.” Alexander was born with a rare genetic mutation called Usher syndrome type III and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content