“The Alleys,” “The Legend of Zeineb and Noah” and “I Can Hear Your Voice… Still” were the big winners of the Cairo Film Connection, the co-production platform of the Cairo International Film Festival.
“The Alleys,” the directorial debut from the Oscar-nominated “Theeb” producer Bassel Ghandour, was awarded the $10,000 Badyã Award and $10,000 New Century Productions Prize.
Currently in post-production, “The Alleys” is a Jordan, Egyptian, French and Saudi co-production about a charming hustler who pretends to be a white-collar career man in a gossip-ridden, violent neighborhood.
The jury, comprising Jordanian actor and producer Saba Mubarak, Moroccan producer Lamia Chraibi, and Egyptian filmmaker Abubakr Shawky, was slated to give out 21 awards from 18 different companies, but they added three more to the list during the ceremony.
“The Legend of Zeineb and Noah” by acclaimed Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah, whose 2012 film “After the Battle” competed for the Palme d’Or, took home five of those awards (Mad Solutions and Ergo; Media Ventures Award; Lagoonie Film Production; Sparkle Media Group; The Cell for color grading; and Clakett) for a cash value in excess of $50,000.
Produced by Ali El Arabi, Nasrallah’s “The Legend of Zeineb and Noah” is about a 13-year-old girl, Zeineb, living in a small town in Upper Egypt in the run-up to Easter. Her best friend and cohort is her 16-year-old Christian neighbor Noah, who legend has it lives in a haunted house. The duo discovers that the demon haunting the house is not from the Underworld. The film is in development.
Sameh Alaa’s fiction “I Can Hear Your Voice… Still) also won five awards (ART; Film Independent; Red Star for Production and Distribution; The Cell for a promotional package, and Sparkle Media Group). Produced by Mark Lotfy, it’s the story of a sheltered teenager girl, Rim, who takes matters into her own hands to raise money to pay her father’s hospital costs. Venturing into the night, Rim challenges social norms and faces prejudices and harassments all the while struggling against internalized misogyny.
Of the documentary projects in post-production, “The Last Projectionist,” produced by Thomas Kaske and May Odeh, recently the recipient of the Variety MENA Award, won The Cell prize for a DCP package. Directed by Alex Bakri, the film follows Hussein Darby’s attempts to be recognized as a cinema projectionist by a German NGO. The Egyptian doc “Before the Final Picture,” the story of acid attack victims helmed by Aya Yusuf, won two prizes (New Black for offline edit, and IEFTA Award).
The in-development documentary project, “Olfa’s Daughters,” by Kaouther Ben Hania, whose recent narrative feature “The Man Who Sold His Skin” played in competition at the Venice Film Festival, won the Rotana Group cash prize of $10,000. Featuring acclaimed Arabic actress Hind Sabri it details the trauma of a Tunisian mother whose two daughters have been radicalized by fundamentalists.
The Arab Cinema Center prize went to Rand Beiruty’s Jordanian doc “Tell Them About Us.”
Merieme Deghedi, Cairo Film Connection manager, said, “With three of our sponsors deciding to double their awards it showed the support for cinema even in times of the coronavirus. This meant we had a record $260,000 to distribute tonight.”
The industry section ran as a hybrid event this year. In the Arab region, Deghedi says, “People don’t like online, they want to meet face to face, so the challenge was making guests not on the ground feel part of the event. This was successfully achieved with other 150 one-to-one meetings taking place either physically or digitally. People managed to connect, and it’s that connection which is most important, not the awards.”