The Middle East premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will open the Cairo Film Festival, which has assembled a rich lineup of international and Arabic titles for its 41st edition. “The Irishman” will screen in the Egyptian capital Nov. 20 prior to being dropped globally by Netflix onto its service Nov. 27.
Scorsese’s mob epic is among 150 films from 63 countries set to screen during the 10-day fest, which this year has also secured several world premieres, such as Palestinian director Najwa Nadir’s divorce amid diaspora drama “Between Heaven and Earth”; the latest feature from Romanian auteur Anrdrei Gruzsniczk (“The Escape”), titled “Zavera”; and Colombian helmer David David’s “The Border,” about a pregnant indigenous woman living on the Colombian-Venezuelan border who is forced to fend for herself when her husband and her brother are killed.
The competition also comprises the international bows of “The Fourth Wall” by Chinese directorial duo Zhang Chong and Zhang Bo, following its world premiere in Shanghai, and Brazilian helmer Ibere Carvalho’s “The Friendly Man,” which stars onetime Brazilian punk rock star Paulo Miklos as a rock star mired in controversy.
Arabic films world-premiering in Cairo include Lebanese director Elie Kamal’s first feature, “Beirut Terminus,” which explores notions of borders and identity in his country; Moroccan veteran Hassan Benjelloun’s comedy “For the Cause,” about a music band contending with border issues; “The Women in Block J,” by Morocco’s Mohamed Nadif, set in a psychiatric hospital in Casablanca; and Tunisian auteur Sami Tlili’s documentary, “On the Crossbar,” which is set in June 1978, when Tunisia became the first African country to win a place in the final phase of the soccer World Cup.
Cairo festival artistic director Ahmed Shawky said in a statement that he made a big push this year to go beyond just securing the cream of the festival crop and instead sought out “as many quality premieres as possible.”
This year’s Cairo festival is the second edition headed by Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy, whose Film Clinic shingle is currently in production on Netflix Arabic original series “Paranormal.” Hefzy has been busy revamping the oldest fest in the Arab and African worlds since being appointed festival president last year.
A key aspect of Hefzy’s Cairo reboot has been to relaunch its industry component, Cairo Industry Days, which will run Nov. 21-26 and showcase 16 feature film projects in development or post-production from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Tunisia. The industry component helps fill a gap left by the now-defunct Dubai fest and market.
Earlier this month, the Cairo fest become the first film event in the Arab world to sign the 5050×2020 gender equality pledge.
The Cairo Film Connection jury members this year include Egyptian screenwriter Mariam Naoum; Ida Martins, who is founder and chief of German sales company Media Luna New Films; and former Jordanian film commission chief George David, who is now a producer and consultant.