A hand full of Egyptian films are competing at the Middle East International Film Festival
Abu Dhabi–Last Thursday marked the opening of the third Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF), taking place at the Emirates Palace Hotel between 8-17 October. Stars from Hollywood, Bollywood, and the Arab film world came to participate in this important event which this year will show 129 films from 49 countries.
Both Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, and Peter Scarlet, the festival’s executive director, delivered the opening speech. “People laughed at me when I told them half the films to be played at the festival were from the Middle East,” said Scarlet, “when they see what we are showing they won’t be laughing any more.”
Dozens of stars attended the opening ceremony, including two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, Frieda Pinto, who played the lead female role in this year’s Academy Award winning film Slumdog Millionaire, and Turkish actor Kivanc Tatlitug, also known as Mohannad. Demi Moore added glamour to the night from the moment she stepped onto the red carpet in an elegant black dress.
The Egyptian presence at the festival was evident, though smaller than at last year’s festival. Among the Egyptians in attendance were actress Ghada Adel and her husband the producer Magdy el-Hawwary, actor Mostafa Shaban, director Ahmed Maher, and the actress Basama. Menna Shalby and Mohamed Khan, who are jurors at the festival, were also in attendance.
This year’s MEIFF includes competitions in narrative film, documentary features, and short film, as well as an Emerati film competition that organizers hope will encourage Emerati filmmakers.
Among the Egyptian films participating in the narrative competition is the feature film Heliopolis starring Khalid Abul Naga, written and directed by Ahmed Abdallah. Egypt will be represented in the documentary competition with two films: Carioca, a cinematic tribute to renowned Egyptian actress and dancer Tahia Carioca by Nabiha Lotfy, and Neighbors by Tahani Rashed, a social history of Cairo’s Garden City neighborhood.
Two Egyptian shorts, Spring 89 by the young director Aytin Amin and To The Sea by Ahmed Magdy, are also part of the competition.
An award for lifetime achievement was given to British actress Vanessa Redgrave. The film shown at the opening ceremony was The Traveler (Al-Mossafer), a debut film written and directed by Ahmed Maher, starring Omar Sharif, Khaled el-Nabawy, and Lebanese singing star Cyrine Abdel Nour. This is the first time in three years that the MEIFF opened with an entry from the region.