‘Alam’ wins top prize at Cairo Film Festival

‘Alam’ wins top prize at Cairo Film Festival

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Palestinian filmmaker Firas Khoury’s fiery coming-of-age drama ‘Alam’ (The Flag) won the Golden Pyramid at Cairo Intl. Film festival, which concluded on Tuesday evening with a glitzy award ceremony in the Egyptian capital.

Khoury’s politically charged debut, which had its world premiere at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival, struck a chord with both the international jury, led by the Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase, and the cinemagoers in Cairo, who also presented the Audience Award “Alam”. During a spectacular premiere in the Middle East on November 18, moviegoers burst into applause several times during the screening.

Khoury, who addressed the audience at the Cairo Opera House with a pre-recorded message, was unable to attend the festival. The director, an Israeli citizen traveling with a Palestinian passport, was denied a visa by the Egyptian authorities.

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“Alam” follows a Palestinian-Israeli teenager who undergoes a political awakening sparked by a beautiful, outspoken girl from his high school class who urges him to join a group of classmates in a risky flag operation on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day . Lead actor Mahmoud Bakri won a share of the top actor for his performance, along with Maher Elkheir, the star of Ali Cherri’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight star ‘The Dam’.

The Silver Pyramid for Best Director went to Emmanuelle Nicot for ‘Love According to Dalva’, a powerful drama about a 12-year-old girl who grows up in foster care after being separated from her abusive father. Nicot’s directorial debut continued his winning streak after bagging Best Cinematography and Best Directorial Debut at the Camerimage Film Festival last week, and a trio of awards after premiering in the Critics’ Week section in Cannes. French actress Zelda Samson, celebrated on the Croisette for her first lead role, also won the acting award in Cairo.

The venerable Egyptian festival concluded a successful 44th edition this week with a new leadership team led by director Amir Ramses, formerly Artistic Director at El Gouna.

Although the rival Egyptian festival scrapped its 2022 edition, the Arab festival circuit has had no shortage of star-studded events this fall, with the recently concluded Marrakech featuring a lineup that includes Tilda Swinton, Paolo Sorrentino, Vanessa Kirby, Diane Kruger and Tahar Rahim, while Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival has tapped Oliver Stone to head the main judging panel next month.

Cairo festival president Hussein Fahmy nevertheless stressed that the grande dame of Arab cinema is still the region’s leading star. “Competition? Bring it on. We have the infrastructure, the legacy,” Fahmy said Variety on the eve of the closing ceremony. “We’re ready to compete with any event, but I’d actually like to have more festivals around.”

Describing Cairo as the ‘Hollywood of the Middle East’, he added that the festival’s role should be to celebrate Egyptian cinema and provide a platform for emerging local filmmakers.

Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla certainly did not disappoint: Abdalla’s “19B”, the only film to represent the host country in Cairo’s main competition, won the Best Arabic Film award from the festival’s competition sections, as well as the FIPRESCI Award from the Intl. Association of Film Critics. The film’s cinematographer Mostafa Elkashef was also honored with the Henry Barakat Award for the best artistic contribution.

Egyptian documentary filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha, meanwhile, won the award for best non-fiction film in the Horizons of Arab Cinema competition section of the festival, while the award for best Arab film went to Carlos Chahine’s “Mother Valley”. ‘Riverbed’ by Bassem Breche won a special jury prize and an acting award for its star, Carole Abboud.

Here is the full list of winners:

International competition

The Golden Pyramid for Best Picture

“Alam”, by Firas Khoury

The Silver Pyramid, Special Jury Award, for Best Director

“Love according to Dalva”, by Emmanuelle Nicot

The Bronze Pyramid Award for Best First or Second Work

“Bread and Salt”, by Damian Kocur

Naguib Mahfouz Award for Best Screenplay

“A Man”, by Kei Ishikawa

Best Actor Award

Maher Elkheir (“The Dam”)
Mahmoud Bakri (“Alam”)

Best Actress Award

Zelda Samson (“Love According to Dalva”)

Henry Barakat Award for Best Artistic Contribution

Mostafa Elkashef (“19B”)

The horizon of the Arab film competition

Saad Eldin Wahba Award for Best Arab Film

“Mother Valley”, by Carlos Chahine

Salah Abu Seif confers the Special Jury Award

“River bed”, by Bassem Breche

Award for best non-fiction film

“Far from the Nile”, by Sherief Elkatsha

Award for Best Acting Performance

Carole Abboud (“Riverbed”)

Special Mentions

“I’m Coming Home”, by Yassine Redissi
Lyna Khoudri (“Houria”)

Awards ceremony International Week of Critics

Shadi Abdel Salam Award for Best Film

“Pamfir,” by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk

Fathy Farag Award for Best Artistic Contribution

“Joyland”, by Saim Sadiq

Special Mention

“Victim”, by Michal Blasko

Short Film Competition

Youssef Chahine Award for Best Short Film

“Rosemary A.D. (After Dad)”, by Ethan Bakhret

The Special Jury Prize

“My Girlfriend”, by Kawthar Younis

Special Mention

“A damn wish”, by Piotr Jasiński

Award for best Arab film

Best Arab Movie

“19B”, by Ahmad Abdalla

Special Mention

“River bed”, by Bassem Breche

The International Federation of Film Critics

FIPRESCI award

“19B”, by Ahmad Abdalla

Audience Award

“Alam”, by Firas Khoury

Marta Balaga contributed to this report.

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