DUBAI: Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival on Tuesday screened Egyptian director Mohamed Diab’s award-winning movie “Amira,” which made its global premiere at the 78th edition of the Venice Film Festival this year.
The film revolves around Amira, a 17-year-old Palestinian who has gone through life believing she is the biological daughter of a Palestinian prisoner serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail.
The film, which is set in Palestine’s West Bank, features a stellar pan-Arab cast, including Jordanian star Saba Mubarak, Palestinian-Israeli actor Ali Suliman and emerging Jordanian actress Tara Abboud, who landed her first leading role as Amira.
“Amira” won two prestigious awards at the Venice International Film Festival — the Lanterna Magica Award and the Interfilm Award.
It is competing for the Feature Narrative Award at El Gouna.
The movie was also screened at the recent Toronto Film Festival.
On Monday, the festival screened the Egyptian film “Feathers,” directed by Omar El-Zohairy.
However, the film — which won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week — sparked controversy at the event and on social media.
Some Egyptian filmmakers and actors, including Sherif Mounir, Ahmed Rizk and Ashraf Abdel Baqi, left the screening of the film because they thought the movie offends Egypt.
“Feathers” tells the story of a mother who dedicates her life to her husband and children. When a magic trick goes wrong at her four-year-old son’s birthday party, an avalanche of coincidental absurdities befalls the family. The magician turns her husband, the authoritarian father, into a chicken.
The mother is now forced to come to the fore and take care of the family while trying to bring her husband back. As she tries to survive, she goes through a rough transformation.
In a phone interview with Egyptian host Amr Adib on his show “Al-Hekaya,” Mounir said: “When I left (the screening), I was followed by others right after me. What I saw, and the film’s picture, portrays us (Egyptians) in a negative way. It shows people suffering in an abnormal way.
“Even poor areas, that ‘were’ there, didn’t live that badly. I was disappointed to be honest. I was also disappointed that when it premiered abroad, it won awards,” he said. “I no longer see this picture (or these struggles) in our country.”
“I don’t know what the people who awarded the film liked in this movie,” he added.
Egyptian news agency Al-Masry Al-Youm shared a released statement by the festival that says: “El-Gouna Film Festival values and appreciates all filmmakers in the world for their art and their outstanding cinematic experiences. The festival team selects films based on artistic and cinematic qualities, according to the standards of international film festivals.
“This year, in its fifth edition, the selection of the film ‘Feathers’ by Egyptian director Omar El-Zohairy is in line with the film selection process, based on his success in other international forums,” added the statement.
Speaking about its Cannes award, the festival’s organizers added: “It is the first Egyptian film to receive such a prestigious award. It also won the Grand Prix of the Pingyao Festival in China yesterday. It will be screened at the next Carthage Film Festival.
“Regarding the views of many Egyptian and international critics, the film’s setting and time were not identified… the festival did not and will not show any film without obtaining official permits, to confirm that it does not bear any offense or grudge in any of its films,” read the statement.