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‘Green Book’ Set to Open Revamped Cairo Film Festival

The Middle East premiere of U.S. director Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book” will open the revamped Cairo Film Festival, where Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” is also set to launch in the region and Ralph Fiennes will be feted with a career award.

Cairo’s upcoming 40th edition, which will run Nov. 20-29, bears the stamp of a big push by its new president, Egyptian producer Mohammed Hefzy, to give the oldest film fest in the region new luster following a period of decline partly due to the country’s post-revolution turbulence.

Hefzy and artistic director Youssef Cheriff Rizkallah have unveiled a large lineup mixing recent standout titles plucked from the international circuit with a rich assortment of fresh Arabic fare. 

Kazakh writer-director Sergey Dvortsevoy and actress Samal Yeslyamova will be coming to Cairo for a gala screening of drama “Ayka,” which competed in Cannes; Argentine director will be making the trek with his San Sebastian opener “An Unexpected Love,” with the romancer’s lead star Juan Vera also in tow. Filipino auteur Brillante Mendoza, who is also on the jury, will be screening his “Alpha, the Right to Kill,” and hold an onstage conversation.

As previously announced, Oscar-winning Danish director Billie August will preside over the jury.

Besides these indications of the effort to raise its international profile, Hefzy has also reinstated the event’s industry component, the Cairo Industry Days, and the Cairo Film Connection co-production platform, which had been scrapped. This year Arabic film projects in various stages will be competing for a total of $110,000 in cash prizes.

Festival entries will be eligible for a new festival audience award voted by the public worth $20,000, to be equally divided between the film’s producer and its local distributor.

The Arab Film Competition section comprises new works from veterans and newcomers, such as Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s black comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage,” Tunisian auteur Mahmoud bin Mahmoud’s “Fatwa,” and Egyptian first-timer Amir El-Shenawy’s “Kilo 64,” about a young man who leaves his well-paid job in the pharmaceutical industry in Cairo to start farming outside the city.

First-time Egyptian-Austrian director A.B. Shawky, whose unconventional road movie “Yomeddine” competed in Cannes and is Egypt’s candidate for the foreign-language Oscar, will preside over the Arab competition jury.

A special nine-title sidebar will be dedicated to celebrating female Arab directors, which will also be the topic of a panel for which Palestine’s Annemarie Jacir (“Wajib”), Algeria’s Sofia Djama (“The Blessed”), Tunisia’s Kaouther Ben Hania (“Beauty and the Dogs”), and Egypt’s Hala Khalil (“Nawara”) and Hala Lofty (“Coming Forth by Day”) have been recruited.

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