The fifth edition is scheduled to take place from October 14-22 in the Red Sea resort town of El Gouna.
During a press conference, El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) announced the final details of the fifth edition, which will take place from October 14-22.
The press conference was attended by Engineer Naguib Sawiris, Founder of El Gouna Film Festival, Engineer Samih Sawiris, El Gouna Founder, Engineer Omar El Hamamsy, CEO of Orascom Development Holding (ODH), Intishal Al Timimi, GFF Director, Bushra Rozza, Co-Founder and Chief Operations and Foreign Relations Officer, Amal El Masri, Executive Director, Amr Mansi, Co-founder, and Youssra, a member of GFF’s International Advisory Board, in addition to the attendance of Amir Ramses, Artistic Director, Tarek Kamel, CEO of O-West and Tamer Dweidar, CEO of Makadi Heights.
The jury members were also present at the press conference including Egyptian actresses Arwa Gouda and Menna Shalaby, Egyptian director and jury president of the Short Film Competition Kamla Abou Zekry, director-producer Tamer Ashry, and Mexican producer and jury president of the Feature Documentary Competition Martha Sosa.
Discussing the fire that occurred at the Festival Plaza, El Gouna Founder Engineer Samih Sawiris said: “We’re thankful that the fire didn’t damage the main parts of the Festival Plaza. GFF’s team members handled the situation well.” Extending his gratitude to the security forces and the Red Sea Governorate’s civil protective forces and mentioned that he visited the hospital to check on the state of the injured parties and found them all safe and sound with minor injuries, Sawiris also added: “Tomorrow, the attendees will not know where the fire occurred.”
A short film displaying the past four years of the El Gouna Film Festival was presented, with an assortment of facts and figures about GFF, CineGouna Platform (CGP), and Cinema for Humanity Audience Award.
Speaking about the inception of GFF and how the resort town of El Gouna adopted it, Engineer Samih Sawiris, said: “When I came here 32 years ago, I wasn’t capable of imagining anything existing in El Gouna. Passion was my main drive in building the town of El Gouna as well as the festival. Our second factor of success was the admiration people hold for us. Today, when the fire broke out, I found support from the civil protective forces as well as the security forces and the Red Sea Governorate in addition to the support given to us by the Ministry of Health and Population and the Ministry of Culture. Several established film festivals took note of our experience during GFF’s fourth edition and followed it.”
Engineer Naguib Sawiris added: “Our foundation is divine assistance in creating GFF’s team. Bushra Rozza, Co-Founder and Chief Operations and Foreign Relations Officer, and Kamal Zadeh, Co-founder and General Manager, met with me and suggested that we hold a film festival in El Gouna. I suggested bringing in Amr Mansi, Co-founder, to the organisational aspect, since he had great successes in holding squash tournaments before. Following this, Bushra arranged a meeting with Intishal Al Timimi, GFF Director, in Cannes. During the meeting, I found a hidden depth behind his external calm as well as a passion for cinema that we share. Then, I suggested the idea to Samih Sawiris, El Gouna Founder, and he liked it. I can now say that the first edition of GFF was the best year of my life.”
Egyptian superstar Youssra, Member of GFF’s International Advisory Board, stated: “GFF participated in increasing the diversity in the realm of film festivals. It inspired a lot of people, especially foreigners, and introduced a different side of Egypt, full of freedom and beauty and rich in touristic and cultural scenery.”
Engineer Omar El Hamamsy, CEO of Orascom Development Holding (ODH), remarked: “This year, most of GFF’s activities will be held in GCCC, which is an open-air centre, making the screenings as well as other activities safe and enjoyable at the same time. Additionally, we held an agreement with the Ministry of Health and Population to vaccinate all GFF guests and attendees. It’s important to also note that all of the workers in El Gouna and at GFF are vaccinated. We thank the Ministry of Health and Population for its collaboration with us.”
Amr Mansi commented: “I would like to thank the International Advisory Board, especially the Egyptian superstar Youssra, who has supported GFF since it first came into being, as well as all our sponsors, partners, and ON TV, who have aided us since the very beginning.”
Intishal Al Timimi noted: “There’s a lot of care towards Arab films in the region as well as a strong competition over the inclusion of films in any Arab film festival. Over the years, we have been successful in monopolising the finest and most prominent Arab cinematic productions. This year, we broke a new record with seven Egyptian films participating in GFF while other film festivals face challenges in securing that number. We constantly aim to make GFF a hub for Arab cinema.”
Discussing the important role of the Ministry of Health and Population, Engineer Samih Sawiris said: “Without the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Population, it wouldn’t have been possible to hold the fourth edition of GFF last year. This year, too, it has provided numerous services, including vaccinations and ambulances as well as PCR tests. The support of the Ministry of Health made the rumours circulating about GFF, in regards to Covid-19, difficult to spread.”
Bushra Rozza added: “Thank you to all attendees, GFF team members, partners, sponsors, and press and media outlets. GFF Director Intishal Al Timimi insisted since the beginning to integrate CineGouna Platform, which includes the programs CineGouna SpringBoard that supports incomplete films and projects, and CineGouna Bridge that communicates with different organisations and holds high-calibre cinematic workshops, panels, and masterclasses. The most important aspect of CGP is its continuance throughout the year, with the inclusion of an annual programme with O West, which will create a continuous contribution to the cultural realm throughout the year.”
Regarding GFF’s film lineup, Amir Ramses, Artistic Director, stated: “GFF’s lineup includes an immense number of award-winning films, including Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion Winner Happening as well as Compartment no. 6, winner of Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prize, in addition to a number of important cinematic productions. Proves our vigilance in selecting quality films is the addition of a new film to our lineup two days ago: Mamoru Hasoda’s Belle, the winner of Locarno Film Festival’s Locarno Kids Award.”
Amal El Masri, Executive Director, said: “I would like to discuss an initiative that adds to Engineer Naguib Sawiris’s Cinema for Humanity idea. This year, we created the It’s Not the End initiative, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, to aid environmental sustainability. 10 fantastic designers will rework cinematic waste into works of art that will be auctioned off. These are the types of initiatives that make ‘Cinema for Humanity’ more than just a slogan.”
Engineer Naguib Sawiris added: “I think that future editions will be more feasible, thanks to Intishal Al Timimi, GFF Director, who is widely known in international cinematic circles. It’s important to get rid of the superficial views about GFF, which only occur because of the extreme attention given to appearances. Securing the most recent cinematic works in the world is difficult as is convincing their filmmakers to attend. If it wasn’t for Covid-19, we would have hosted several international stars. We have proved ourselves over the past few years; now the important part is innovation for the upcoming ones.”
Intishal Al Timimi announced the inauguration of the El Gouna Green Star Award, which will be awarded for films that focus on environmental issues, adding that it was the goal of Engineer Samih Sawiris, first and foremost. The jury for El Gouna Green Star Award will include Egyptian actress Arwa Gouda.
Bushra Rozza commented: “I would like to also say that there will be panels, especially the Depicting Ancient Egypt in Film panel, and the Breathe, Talk, Perform: A Take on the Psychological Well-being of Actor panel, in collaboration with Medfest Egypt, as well as the Costume Design Workshop Co-instructed by Deborah Landis and Reem El Adl and a panel about the Egyptian films that impacted society. There will also be a masterclass by renowned American director Darren Aronofsky in addition to the Special Presentation and the Retrospective Exhibition curated by renowned production designer Onsi Abou Seif about the famed Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski.”
Following this, the members of GFF announced an initiative that will take place in O West Cairo throughout the year, in which a selection of GFF films will be screened.
Egyptian Director Inas ElDeghedy stated: “I have known the Sawiris brothers for a long time. They have started from scratch and today I see them in the same way: admired by the people and remaining joyful. El Gouna Film Festival is part of how they enjoy life and how they display their love for their country. They are among the people who have exerted the most effort to serve Egypt, with GFF being a part of them.”
In response to the questions regarding the cancellation of the opening film, Amir Ramses, Artistic Director, said: “The opening film was cancelled because of our cautiousness in screening films in the most optimum conditions and our respect for the filmmakers. Picking a film for the opening ceremony could cause unfairness to one of the other films, which isn’t what we desire. This year, we do not have an opening film, but we have a film that will initiate the start of red carpet screenings.”