Cairo is best known for its history – the Pyramids, fine museums and distinctive monuments. But a very modern event is held in Cairo on an annual basis – The Cairo International Film Festival. In the often uncertain political climate of beautiful Egypt, Cairo’s International Film Festival acts as a forum for political and cultural exploration.
In November 2014, it screened a variety of films including David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, whose star Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Award at Cannes Film Festival. It also featured two films about the World War II – Queen and Country, and Diplomacy.
In 1975, after a visit to the Berlin Film Festival the late writer-critic Kamal El Mallakh and a group of like-minded cinema critics decided to begin an international film festival. The festival was launched in 1976, the first international film festival in the Arab world. At the time Egyptian cinema was in the middle of a golden age. Today, Egypt’s film industry remains the largest in the Arabic world. The Cairo International Film Festival takes place annually, although it has twice been cancelled due to political instability. In the Arab world and Africa, it is the only international, competitive film festival recognized by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations.
The inaugural festival presented around 100 films, from 33 countries, with 14 films in competition. In 1985, the Egyptian Association of Film Writers and Critics combined with the Ministry of Culture and the Union of Artist’s Syndicates to form a festival committee. The aim was to raise the quality of films shown and improve the finances of the festival. Throughout its history, the Cairo International Film Festival has continued to be daring and versatile. It is a meeting point for filmmakers and critics, and attracts a range of writers, intellectuals and other artists.
The Cairo International Film Festival is held at the Opera House, its attached artistic centres and venues. The Opera House is a hub for Cairo’s artistic and cultural community, and is one of the most innovative and creative venues in Egypt.
Cairo is jumble of contrasts, and attracts millions of tourists to experience the dichotomy of the traditional, modern and historical. Home to 20 million people, it is more than trips to the Nile and the Sphinx. A buzzing city, known for its crowded streets, souks and restaurants, it is the ideal location for an international film festival. The contrast between the Arabic world and western tourism is reflected in the festival. Through its selection of diverse films, from the Arabic world and across the globe, the festival maintains a distinctive character. It may be one of the less well known international festivals, but it offers an irreplaceable perspective on contemporary cinema
Films that have won the Festival’s Golden Pyramid award include:
- L’ennmie intime by Florent Emilio Siri
- Retorno a Hansala by Chus Gutiérrez
- Postia Pappi Jaakobille by Klaus Härö