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Cinematic spring
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 28 - 02 - 2019

The Sharm El-Sheikh Asian Film Festival (SAFF, 2-8 March) and the Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF, 15-21 March) are two attempts to affirm Egypt's central position as a strategic connection between two continents.
SAFF and LAFF
Founded by the Noon Foundation for Culture and Art (headed by the late filmmaker Mohamed Kamil Al-Qalyubi), the first had started out as the Luxor European Film Festival in 2012 and was headed by journalist Gamal Zaida for two rounds before he took over the Noon Foundation. Under filmmaker Magdi Ahmed Ali as president and film critic Mohamed Al-Sayed Abdel-Rehim as artistic director, this year SAFF is reinventing itself as an Asian film festival. Opening with Egyptian filmmaker Islam Rasmi's film world-themed documentary The Crew, it features 58 films from 26 Asian countries including Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Tatarstan, Tajikistan, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan competing for nine awards in five competitions.
In the narrative feature competition, the following films compete for the Souad Hosny award for best actress and 3000 USD, Ahmed Zaki award for best actor and 3000 USD, Ghad Al-Arabi award for best feature film and 3000 USD, Djed Pillar for best screenplay and Djed Pillar for best director: 1957 directed by Hurbert Tibi (Philippines); 27 Steps of May by Ravi Bharwani (Indonesia); Baigal by Ildar Yagafarov (Tatarestan/ Russia); Birth by Abdulla Hasan (UAE); Die Tomorrow by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit (Thailand); House of Setnakht by Ahmed Adel Aql (Egypt); Miaa Baek by Lee Ji-Won (South Korea); Rona Azim's Mother by Jamshid Mahmoudi (Afghanistan); Song Lang by Leon Le (Vietnam); The Gun by Masaharu Take (Japan); The Rib by Wei Zhang (China); War Travelers by Joud Saeed (Syria). The jury brings together Chinese filmmaker Xie Fei as head of jury, UAE filmmaker Abdulah Al-Juneby, US film critic Deborah Young, Egyptian actress Abeer Sabri and Filipino actress Sue Prado .
The Crew

In the documentary feature competition, the following films compete for Djed Pillar award for best feature documentary: 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami directed by Seifollah Samadian (Iran); Birthday by Hillal Baydarov (Azerbaijan); Mr. Big by Tong Shengjia (China); Rockabull by Travis Bread (Afghanistan/ Australia); The Band by Albaqer Jafeer (Iraq/ Lebanon). These films will compete on Djed Pillar award for best feature documentary. The documentary film jury is made up of Egyptian cinematographer Mohsen Ahmed, Lebanese film critic Nadeem Jarjoura and German filmmaker Franziska Arise.
In the animated feature competition, the following films compete for the Djed Pillar award for best animated feature film: Little Hero directed by Antonius Li and William Fajito (Indonesia); The Last Fiction by Ashkan Rahgozar (Iran); Timescapes by Ervin (Singapore); Fish Boy by Xuan Liang. The jury consists of Egyptian filmmaker Ashraf Mohamed, the Kazan International Muslim Film Festival president Milyausha Aytuganova (Russia) and Lebanese filmmaker Shady Oun.
In the short film competition, 14 films – two from Egypt and Saudi Arabia each and one from Palestine, the UAE, Syria, Sri Lanka, Tatarstan, Tajikistan, Bahrain, Iran and India each – compete for the Djed Pillar award for best short film, a certificate for second best short film and a certificate for third best short film. The jury includes Egyptian filmmaker Hany Lashen filmmake, Bengladeshi filmmaker Tasmiah Afreen and Syrian film critic Ali Wageh.
In the student film competition, entries to be announced compete for the Djed Pillar for best student Film, a certificate for second best student film and a certificate for third best student film.
SAFF includes film-industry seminars with such figures as documentary filmmaker Ali Al-Ghazoli as Emirati director and actor Abdullah Al-Junaibi as well as such icons as Chinese filmmaker Xie Fei, Egyptian actress Hala Sedki and Egyptian actor Lotfi Labib. It also includes a workshop on film music with composer Rageh Daoud and a filmmaking workshop with students of the French University and Sharm El-Sheikh students (the latter took place last week and its results will be screened at the festival).

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Regarde-moi
During a press conference, LAFF president screenwriter Sayed Fouad and LAFF director filmmaker Azza Al-Husseiny announced that this year's round will be named after the late Burkinabe filmmaker Idrissa Ouédraogo (1954-2018) and have Tunisia as its guest of honour. With actor Mahmoud Hemeida (whose credits include over 60 films with the lates of Youssef Chahine, Mohamed Khan, Yousry Nasrallah, Khairy Beshara and Osama Fawzi) as its honorary president, the 2019 LAFF is dedicated to the names of Egyptian-Greek composer Andrea Ryder (1908-1971), Nigerian animation artist Moustapha Alassane (1942-2015) and Egyptian filmmaker Tawfik Saleh (1926-2013). Also honoured are director Mahamat Saleh Haroun from Chad, director Fanta Regina from Burkina Faso, producer Dorra Bouchoucha from Tunisia and Sudanese actress Faiza Amseeb as well as the following Egyptians: actress Lebleba, actor Asser Yassin and filmmaker Omar Abdel-Aziz. The festival will screen selected works of the honourees.
The narrative feature competition includes 10 films: the Egyptian film EXT. Night directed by Ahmed Abdalla; the Ghanaian films The Burial of Kojo by Sam Blitz Bazawule and Fate by Kwabena Gyansah; the Moroccan films The Healer by Mohamed Zineddaine and Indigo by Selma Bargach; the South African films Ko Nkanga by David Kabale and Sew the Winter to My Skin by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka; the Tunisia Regarde-moi by Néjib Belkadhi; the Algerian film Until the End of Time by Yasmine Chouikh; and the Mozambique film Mabata Bata by Sol de Carvalho. The jury is made up of director Cheick Oumar Sissoko from Mali, director Nour-Eddine Lakhmari from Morocco, producer Dorra Bouchoucha from Tunisia, director Fanta Régina from Burkina Faso and composer Ragih Dawood from Egypt.
The documentary feature competition includes 10 films: the Gabon film Boxing Libreville directed by Amédée Pacôme Nkoulou; the Egyptian-German coproduction Dreamaway by Marouan Omara and Joanna Domke; the Senegal film Fiifiiré in Cuballo Country by Mame Woury Thioubou; the Libya-UK film Freedom Fields by Naziha Arebi; the Mali film Gao, Resistance of a People by Kassim Sanogo; the Tunisian film Ghzela by Hajer Nefzi; the Somalia-Denmark coproduction Lost Warrior by Søren Steen Jespersen and Nasib Farah; the Zimbabwe film Making Ends Meet by Thomas Muziyirwa; the Senegal film Migrants by Abdou Lahat Fall; and the South African film Whispering Truth to Power by Shameela Seedat. The jury consists of director Mansour Sora Wade from Senegal, screenwriter Tarak Ben Chabaan from Tunisia, director Dieudo Hamadi from Congo, director Amir Ramsis from Egypt and filmmaking professor Yehia Azmy also from Egypt.
The short film competition includes 16 films: the Moroccan films Ales by Faiçal Benaghrou and Yasmina by Ali Esmili with French filmmaker Claire Cahen; the Algerian films Point Zero by Nassim Boumaiza and Timoura by Azedine Kasri; the Ugandan film 80 Plus by Lucky Lora Atwiine and Mugume Davidson; the Ethiopian film Dagu by Aron Yeshitila; the Rwandan films Kazungu by Yuhi Amuli and Luna by Bora Shingiro; the Côte d'Ivoire film La Poupée by Isabelle Christiane Kouraoga; the Nigerian film Losing My Religion by Damilola E. Orimogunje; the Senegalese film My Beloved Co-wife by Angèle Diabang; the Cameroonian film Requiem, Prologue by Cyrielle Raingou; the Somali film Sega by Idil Ibrahim; the Sudanese film Serotonin by Shehab Satti; the Kenyan film Tithes and Offerings by Tony Koros; the Tunisian film Waltz of Dawn by Emna Najjar. The jury consists of filmmaker Mohamed Kamel and actress Amina Khalil from Egypt, filmmaker Samwel Ishimwe from Rwanda, filmmaker Léonce Ngabo from Burundi, and film critic Insaf Ouhiba from Tunisia.
In the freedom films competition, which is the only international section of LAFF, 10 films will be screened: Alganesh directed by Lia Beltrami (Italy-Ethiopia); The Borrowed Dress by Leen Alfasial (UAE-Jordan-Lebanon); Forgiveness: Secret of Peace by Katsy Long (USA-Rwanda); Home Of The Rivers by Maya Mounayer (Syria); The Mercy of the Jungle by Joël Karekezi (Rwanda); Golden Fish, African Fish by Thomas Grand (France-Senegal); The Rainbow Experiment by Christina Kallas (USA-Greek-German); Robin: Watch for Wishes by Kevin and Toby Schmutzler (Germany-South Africa); A Dreamed Love by Arthur Gillet (Belgium); and Urgent by Mohcine Besri (Morocco). The jury consists of filmmakers Samir Seif and Sherif Mandour from Egypt, film critic Olivier Barlet from France, filmmaker and producer Sam Lahoud from Lebanon, and actor Bassel Khayyat from Syria.
As well as a student film competition featuring 14 productions from the Higher Institute of Cinema, Beni Suef University, October 6 University, the French University and Studio Zat, LAFF will also screen 14 films in the official selection out of competition and two recent films in the Egyptian Panorama Section. Arguably the most important aspect of LAFF, this year the workshops include the annual STEP Long Documentary Development Workshop led by filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri, which aims to develop six pre-selected projects (two from Egypt and one each from Algeria, Cameroon, Rwanda and Togo) as well as events tailored to young locals like screenwriting (led by screenwriter Nasser Abdel-Rahman), ballet for children (Yasmine Al-Hawary), acting (Mohsin Sabry), storytelling for children (Mohamed Abdel Fattah), animation (Mohamed Ghazala), drawing (Wael Nour), sculpture (Houreya El Sayed), children's cinema (Showikar Khalifa), interactive art (Mohamed Abla), film directing (Khaled El Hagar) and theatre directing (Gamal Thabet).


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