Egypt Shines Brightly at DIFF 2015

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Three Awards Scooped up by Menna Shalaby and Mahmood Soliman

There seems little doubt that Egyptian cinema is going from strength to strength. A year of prolific offerings culminated in Egypt capturing three of the top prizes at Dubai International Film Festival 2015. Cairo West Magazine applauds all Egyptian participants in DIFF 2015 for their outstanding work, and extends congratulations to Menna Shalaby for receiving the award for Best Actress in her empathetic performance in Nawara, and Mahmood Soliman for Best Director for his insightful no-holds-barred documentary, We Have Never Been Kids (Abadan Lam Nakon Atfalan). The documentary also received the Best Muhr Non-Fiction Feature award.

 

Nawara

Throwing the disparate lives of the rich and poor in the last days of the Mubarak regime under an unforgiving spotlight, this film, directed and written by Egyptian director Hala Khalil, shows the daily life of Nawara, a young woman who works as a housemaid in a luxury villa in an elite compound. The story is set on the evening of the 2011 uprising, and from there things take an unexpected path. Taking advantage of the absence of the owner of the villa as he flees the country, leaving Nawara to take care of his property, she then invites her fiancé to visit, and they enjoy sampling a lifestyle that had been beyond their imagination.

Menna Shalaby, in the title role of Nawara, is supported by a superb cast who under the skilled direction of Hala Khalil project us into the life of Nawara and the many like her, with parallel lives played out in the sprawling metropolis of Cairo. Shalaby’s portrayal received thunderous applause from the Dubai audience at its premiere last December, a reception echoed by her becoming recipient of the prized Muhr Best Actress Award a few days later. With several films and a new series in the pipeline during 2016 it seems that audiences are in for more displays of Shalaby’s prodigious talent.

Director: Hala Khalil

Scriptwriter: Hala Khalil

Cinematographer: Zaki Aref

Composer: Layal Watfeh

Cast: Menna Shalaby, Mahmoud Hemeida, Sherine Reda, Ameer Salah El Din, Raqaa Hussein, Ahmed Rateb,  Rahma Hassan, Ahmed Magdy, Abbas Abo Elhassan >>

 

 

We Have Never Been Kids (Abadan Lam Nakon Atfalan)

Tackling an omnipresent social phenomenon, that of a solo mother battling to raise a brood of children, director Mahmood Soliman has penetrated to the depths of the life of one woman and her challenges. Following up on his 2003 documentary, Living Among Us Soliman reveals the path the lives of the family have taken in the turbulent years since he first set out to capture their lives on screen. Showing the last years of the Mubarak era, and the subsequent struggle within the country to find stability, each child has become victim to a pervasive lack of opportunity and corrupted infrastructure. Nadia, the mother, still resolutely searches for the remnants of the family she fought so hard to raise.

Soliman’s sensitive handling of this very real human drama will undoubtedly strike a nerve within every audience member, it is an unnerving study of a fragile system and its casualties.

With his first feature length film already in the works, Soliman is adding to his well-recognised skills as multi-award winning writer, social commentator and director. His contribution to the world of Egyptian film seems set to burgeon.

Director: Mahmood Soliman

Scriptwriter: Mahmood Soliman

Producer: Nivine Afify

Awards: Best Director, Best Muhr Non-Fiction Feature

 

Egyptian Entries for DIFF 2015

While Nawara and We Have Never Been Kids came out bearing awards aloft, the remaining entries also received positive attention, showcasing Egyptian creativity, in some cases as part of a collaborative effort with filmmakers from other countries.

 

Before the Summer Crowds (Abla Zahmet El Saif)

A well-crafted tongue-in-cheek look at a mainstay of Egyptian life, the annual summer escape to the gleaming Mediterranean sands of the much loved North Coast. However, in this case it is the story of an estranged couple who head there before the summer season sets in. Enter another early holidaymaker; a female neighbour, and the situation inevitably gets a little complicated. While being at times an almost uncomfortably close-to-the-bone satire on the habits and lifestyles of the Egyptian middle class, the familiar combination of drama and romance could ring true equally well for international audiences.

 

Director: Mohamed Khan

Producers: Wael Omar, Mohamed Hefzy, Hani Osama

Scriptwriter: Ghada Shahbandar

Cinematographer: Victor Credi

Composer: Layal Watfeh

Cast: Maged El Kedwany, Hana Shiha, Ahmed Dawood, Lana Mushtaq, Hany El Mettanawy >>

 

Dry Hot Summers

(Har Gaf Sayfan)

A short film, but sweet nonetheless. The story covers a bride, trying to organise her wedding photograph session with her groom, and her encounter with a cancer patient en route. As the encounter develops it is not without flashes of humour, providing a good half hour of enjoyable watching.

Director: Sherif El Bendary

Producers: Hossam Elwan, Safie Eldin Mahmoud, Claudia Jubeh, Sherif El Bendary

Scriptwriter: Nura Elsheikh

Cinematographer: Victor Credi

Cast: Mohamed Farid, Nahed Elsebaie, Donia Maher, Mohamed Abdelazeem

 

The Curve (Al Munaataf)

A collaborative effort between Egypt, France, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, The Curve is a road trip, in every sense of the word. The protagonist, a Palestinian-Jordanian man who has set up a self-decorated minibus as his home, meets up by chance with three different people in separate circumstances. How they set out together on the road, and the outcome, result in a gripping and thought-provoking film.

Director: Rifqi Assaf

Producers: Rula Nasser, Mohammed Hefzy, Xenia Maingot

Scriptwriter: Rifqi Assaf

Cinematographer: Piotr Jaxa

Editor: Doaa Fadel

Composer: Suad Bushnaq

Cast: Ashraf Barhoum, Fatina Laila, Mazen Moadam, Ashraf Telfah

 

The Wheel (Al Agla)

A scant 14 minutes long, this drama packs quite a story in spite of its brevity. When an Egyptian couple, both of whom work for a circus, find a way to escape the humdrum of their lives through a new game, The Wheel, we see how quickly things can spin out of control.

Director: Menna Ekram

Producers: Menna Ekram

Scriptwriter: Menna Ekram

Cinematographer: Ghassan Nazmi

Editor: Raymond Atef

Composer: Moheb Safa

Cast: Shady Khalil, Ola Abu Shalashel

 

Yallah! Underground

Combining filmmaking talents from Germany, Czech Republic, Egypt, United Kingdom, Canada and USA, this tour de force brings the audience bands from the underground music scene in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine and Jordan. It also introduces bands created by young Arab artists in Europe and America. Their music becomes a vehicle for expressing much of the mood during recent years in the region.

Director:  Farid Eslam

Producer: Nathan Fischer

Scriptwriter: Farid Eslam

Cinematographer: Prokop Soucek

Editor: Jakub Vomacka

Cast: Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Mohamed Safi, Zeid Hamdan, Shadi Zaqtan, Maii Waleed, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Ousso Lotfy, Karim Adel Eissa, Marc Codsi, Mayaline Hage

 

 

As 2015 draws to a close, we can anticipate a coming year of exciting displays of Egyptian creativity and cinematic breakthroughs, and even more awards, we are sure.

 

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