Egyptian-Austrian director A.B. Shawky, whose unconventional road movie “Yomeddine” is Egypt’s candidate for the foreign-language Oscar, will be the recipient of Variety’s MENA Talent of the Year Award, to be bestowed during the upcoming El Gouna Film Festival.
“Yomeddine,” in which a middle-aged man raised in a leper colony embarks with a sidekick and a donkey on a journey across Egypt to try to reconnect with his family, world-premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, a rare case of a first feature making the official competition cut. The film won the non-official Francois Chalais Prize in Cannes, which is given to life-affirming works.
Shawky’s passion project, which stars non-professional actor Rady Gamal, who suffers from leprosy and is a resident of the leper colony, won the works-in-progress award last year at the El Gouna festival’s Cinegouna Platform. This year, the completed “Yomeddine” will have its Middle Eastern premiere in competition at the ambitious new film fest on the banks of the Red Sea, where the director will also be honored.
El Gouna artistic director Intishal Al Timimi said in a statement that “Yomeddine” had been “the talk of the town ever since it had its world premiere” at Cannes. He also noted that last year’s Variety MENA Talent of the Year Award was awarded to Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri for his courtroom drama “The Insult,” which went on to score a foreign-language Oscar nomination.
“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award and look forward to showing ‘Yomeddine’ to audiences around the world,” said Shawky, who studied political science and filmmaking in Cairo and is an alumnus of NYU’s graduate film program.
“Yomeddine,” which was produced by American-Egyptian producer Dina Emam’s Desert Highway Pictures in collaboration with Egypt’s Film Clinic, has been acquired for North America by Strand Releasing, which is planning an early 2019 U.S. outing.
The second edition of the El Gouna festival runs Sept. 20-28.