New works by prominent Arab film directors such as Egyptian auteur Yousry Nasrallah and Tunisia’s Kaouther Ben Hania – whose “The Man Who Sold His Skin” scored a prize at Venice – are among projects selected for the upcoming Cairo Film Festival’s co-production platform alongside those by emerging talents.
The Cairo Film Connection, as the key Arab cinema platform is known, has announced its list made up of seven feature films and eight docs in various stages of completion from 12 different countries. They were selected from a field of 105 submissions.
Nasrallah (pictured) is among Egypt’s most highly regarded filmmakers, known for depicting his country’s social and political complexities in multi-layered movies such as “Gate of the Sun” (2004), “Aquarium” (2008) and “After the Battle” (2012), a meditation on the Tahrir Square revolution.
He is now working on drama “The Legend of Zainab and Noah,” in which a 13-year-old youngster named Zainab, who strongly believes in many superstitions, steals her recently deceased mother’s corpse in order to delay the funeral.
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She then escapes from her village in Upper Egypt with Noah, her 16-year-old Christian neighbor, embarking on a road trip in which they both confront many of the myths and fears they believed were true, according to a CFC synopsis.
Ben Hania – whose “The Man” was a Venice standout in the cutting-edge Venice Horizons section and scored the male acting prize for Syria’s Yahya Mahyani – has a creative doc in the works titled “Olfa’s Daughters.”
It is about a director (Ben Hania) who observes and directs an actress (Arab star Hend Sabri), who in turn observes and analyzes another character named Olfa, a Tunisian mother of two and a housekeeper of modest means. Olfa’s two teenage daughters unfortunately become radicalized and run away to join ISIS in Libya where they’ve been imprisoned.
Many first-time filmmakers stand alongside known names in the CFC selection this year, Cairo Film Festival president Mohammed Hefzy noted in a statement, saying that he was particularly “proud that 50% of the selected projects are by female directors.”
Hefzy, who is also a prominent Egyptian indie producer, added that he’s also proud to see Mayye Zayed’s doc “Lift Like a Girl” screen in Toronto’s official selection after passing through CFC. The story of a 14-year-old girl from Alexandria who pursues her dream of becoming a world champion weightlifter is set to bow in the Middle East from the Cairo fest’s competition section.
In its seven years of operation, Cairo Film Connection has helped Arab filmmakers secure funding and partnerships on more than 100 films from across the region. Last year, the platform provided more than $200,000 of support.
This year’s edition of Cairo is scheduled to run Dec. 2-10 as a physical event. Festival organizers assure that mandated health and safety guidelines from the Egyptian government and World Health Organization will be strictly adhered to.