Held on the margins of the 40th Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), the 5th edition of the Cairo Film Connection (CFC) has wrapped up its activities, where 11 film projects, out of the 16 selected feature narrative and documentary film projects from across the Arab world, received 10 awards. The cumulative value of this year's monetary prizes is over $130,000, along with other non-monetary awards.
This year's CFC jury committee brought together Egyptian producer Gaby Khoury, Managing Director of Misr International Films (MIF), Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha and Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir.
The Arab Cinema Center (ACC) Award
The feature documentary project The Fountain of Bakhchisarai by director Mohamed Taher and producer Amir El-Shenawy won the ACC Award presented by the Arab Cinema Center (ACC) at the Cairo Film Connection (CFC). The award is an invitation given to the winning project's producer to attend the Rotterdam Lab, held on the sidelines of the 2019 International Film Festival Rotterdam - IFFR in the Netherlands (January 24 - February 4).
In Egypt's 60s, five ballerinas go on stage for the first time in public to perform The Fountain of Bakhchisarai at the old Khedivial Opera House. Magda Saleh, the first Egyptian prima ballerina, recognizes that her feelings of this night are only left in her memory, as the main videotape was damaged in the Egyptian Television Network. She decides to reunite with her former colleagues after 50 years to recreate their first dance together in Hologram technology searching for a lost history and a vanished cultural heritage.
Organized by the CineMart as part of the International Film Festival Rotterdam - IFFR, the Rotterdam Lab is a five-day training workshop for emerging producers from all over the world. Providing confidence and skills to navigate the world of international film financing, sales and distribution, Rotterdam Lab offers a place to over 60 producers from over 24 countries. The aim of Rotterdam Lab is to provide emerging professionals with the means to build and develop and international network.
The Arab Radio and Television Network (ART) Prize
Jordanian feature film Inshallah A Boy by director Amjad AlRasheed won a monetary prize of $10,000 presented by the Arab Radio and Television Network (ART), a partner of the Arab Cinema Center (ACC).
Inshallah A Boy follows Nawal, who is grieving the sudden death of her husband. Under oppressive traditions and the stand of The Islamic Sharia laws toward women heritage, she's at risk of losing her home for her brother in law, Rifqi, because she doesn't have a son. As the house is her only shelter to live and raise her daughter, she refuses to submit for Rifqi's greediness. Nawal finds herself pulled into a journey where she has to encounter fears, society, beliefs and her humanity, to get what should be her right. Otherwise she'll lose everything including her daughter.
Iraqi Cinema Prize
The Algerian film Longer Will Be The Night by director Latifa Said won a monetary prize of $5,000 presented by Iraqi Cinema, a partner of the Arab Cinema Center (ACC).
The film follows Nora, who learns from TV news that the Algerian government is going to compensate the women victims of rape during the period of the black decade. All of a sudden, her troubling past comes back and she remembers being one of these victims. She decides to go back to Algeria, to make peace with her family and introduce them to her son who was born as a result of that rape.
The Iraqi film The Woodman by director Koutaiba Al-Janabi shared a monetary prize of $20,000 with the Egyptian film Spray by director Sherif Elbendary presented by Badyã, the festival's official sponsor.
Featuring thriller and surrealistic elements, The Woodman is a feature film that follows a life size wooden dummy as its protagonist. It is a fairy tale about refugees, strangers, displaced in the world represented by the Woodman as a young man, appearing as a human being with a soul. Hunted by evil powers, he escapes to a house as shelter - that becomes his prison. This story is the reverse of the usual representation: The Woodman now wants to go back, home, having come from the forest he longs to get back to his roots, to his home. Is it possible?
Spray follows Dalia, the liberal working wife and mother, who has a sudden twist in her life when an unknown person sprays the word "whore" on her car. This small incidence turns Dalia's life into a living hell in a society that still judges women based on what they wear and how pious they seem. Dalia's husband, a cheater himself, suddenly starts to doubt his wife. Her introverted son gets constantly bullied. Through Dalia's story, the society's hypocrisy and attitude towards women is exposed.
New Century Production Prize
The Lebanese film We Are Inside by director Farah Kassem received a monetary prize of $10,000 presented by New Century Production.
Being away for a decade, Farah (31) returns to her father's place in her hometown Tripoli, Lebanon. Mustapha (83) invites her to his hidden universe: a poetry club of retired men, all writing in a sophisticated Classical Arabic alien to Farah. While the poets are in their refuge, the city outside is experiencing an Islamic radicalization. Because of the apathy of her father's aging generation, Farah worries she is to inherit a city less secular than the one her father once knew. In order to understand their submissiveness she needs to understand the old men's poetry. Farah will enter a world that belongs to her father, a secular bubble within today's Arab world that is disappearing together with him.
Arabia Pictures Prize
The Tunisian film Severed Head by director Lotfi Achour won a monetary prize of $10,000 presented by Arabia Pictures.
Two young shepherds, Nizar, 16, and his cousin Ashraf, 14, venture into the mountains with their goats, into a forbidden military zone. Caught by jihadists, Nizar is beheaded and his severed head handed over to Ashraf, who is forced to take it back to his mother. After some hesitation, full of grief and dread, Ashraf rolls the severed head in a bag and climbs down from the mountain carrying his terrible burden. But the family will try at all costs to recover the teenager's body because they refuse to bury him if his body is not whole.
Front Row Filmed Entertainment and Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC) Prize
The Libyan film Once Upon a Time in Tripoli by director Abdullah El Ghaly won a monetary prize of $10,000 presented by Front Row Filmed Entertainment and Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC).
Three militants ambush Murad's father and confiscate his car, the car is owned by the father's employer company. Murad's father will lose his job if he doesn't pay for the car, but he doesn't have that amount. Murad meets with his two friends to brainstorm, they try to rob a bank, kidnap a rich man for a ransom, but they fail. Murad and his friends spot the three militants' truck. They attack the militants and take them hostages. After discovering African immigrants in the back of the truck, they decide to smuggle the immigrants to Europe, and collect their money.
Orbit Showtime Network (OSN) Prize
The Tunisian film Before It's Too Late by director Majdi Lakhdar won a monetary prize of $50,000 presented by OSN to acquire screening rights.
Ali is an old tailor from Tunis who spends his time looking for a buried treasure in an underground gallery in his house. One day, he finds himself stuck with his wife and children under the rubble after the collapse of their home. Now, he must take them to the underground shelter while trying to find a way to save them before it is too late.
Ergo Media Ventures Prize
The Syrian film project Crystal House by director Zeinah Alqahwaji won a monetary prize of $15,000 presented by Ergo Media Ventures.
This story takes place somewhere in Damascus city, between the walls of a little home, mostly in darkness, especially at the beginning, when the war start raging, and every aspect of life has started to diminish. However, there is some light coming in from the windows and the balcony, which is looking over a valley that turns every now and then into a panorama for different military clashes. An old Damascene wife and husband have locked inside an isolated home, struggling to stand steadily on a shaky ground, by holding on to their place, where nothing and everything is happening at the same time.
Aroma Studios Award - Post-production Services
The film project My Mohamed Is Different by Tunisian director Ines Marzouk received a post-production award presented by Aroma Studios. The award offers color grading and DCP.
Against the backdrop of a beautiful run down city with its music, heritage and simplicity lies a very disturbing reality. Dwellers try to escape poverty by marrying older foreign women. Abdel Rahim, a local tourist guide, married with two kids, will do anything to find a foreign woman to secure his future. He connects with women online to allure them to Luxor. After six month, he finally finds a woman. Serena
and Maria both approaching their 80s marry men 40 years younger. Following these three couple's surreal relationships is recognition of human vulnerability and desperation.