A lot went on at the film festival on Thursday. There was a red carpet event before the screening of Indian director, actor and choreographer Farah Khan’s film Om Shanti Om (2007). Khan received the Faten Hamama prize of excellence in cinema this year. She was also supposed to be part of the International Competition jury, but as she was unable to attend, Indian actor Radhika Apte took her place. Citing family obligations, Khan arrived in Cairo a few days after the festival opened, thus missing the opening ceremony and gala.
I’m surprised by how popular Farah Khan is in Egypt. People were screaming requests to take pictures with her yesterday. Honoring what Khan called in her press conference “the spirit of India,” there was also a sari dance on the red carpet which the crowd seemed to really enjoy.
Also walking the red carpet on Thursday were the stars and crew of Egyptian film The Price (Hesham Issawi, 2015), which closes the Arab Horizons competition this year. If you’ve been following FestBeat you know that I’ve been really looking forward to watching this film. Issawi’s last film, Cairo Exit, screened at the Dubai Film Festival and Tribeca to very positive reviews. I had high hopes, like many other people.
Doors were supposed to open at 9:15 pm, but by 9 pm more people were waiting to watch The Price than the hall could accommodate. Understandably, there was a lot of tension at the doors once they opened at 9.30 pm. The Opera House staff seemed overwhelmed by the turnout and a bit frazzled.
Drama continued into the screening. In addition to the ongoing sound of people arguing at the doors, 10 minutes or so after the film started rolling, the producer (Sherif Mandour) stood up and noted that it was being screened in the wrong aspect ratio. He apologized to the audience and asked staff to figure out how to project it properly. They tried, but were unable to. This is not the first time a film has been shown in the wrong aspect ratio at CIFF this year — I noted earlier how In Your Arms (Samanou Sahlstrom, 2015) was also projected incorrectly. Fortunately, the crew for The Price were present to point out the technical fault to the audience.
The Price was somewhat of a disappointment though, especially compared to some of the other films screening in the same category. Competition in the Arab Horizons section this year is fierce, and The Price is up against some extremely sophisticated films that have really raised the bar.
The film revolves around a taxi driver called Magdy (Amr Youssef), who is struggling economically. His wife (Sahar El Sayah) needs expensive surgery to save her life. Because of his situation, he becomes vulnerable prey for a businessman who uses him to kill a famous journalist.
Shot mostly in close-ups that add a lyrical dimension, this is a psychological drama exploring the plight of a struggling Egyptian working-class man. One thing I really like about the camera movement in this film is how it follows characters — the way it moves within each shot gives the sense that everyone is being watched. The Price is worth seeing, and it will be in cinemas soon, according to its producer.
Also yesterday, the star of the South Korean film Madonna (Shin Su-Won, 2015) was present for a Q&A. This is the only film from South Korea screening in the festival this year. One thing I have noticed about the 37th edition of CIFF is its Eastern European focus. There are a lot of films from Russia, Romania, Poland and Bosnia. Outside of the Japanese animation spotlight section, there have not been a lot of films from East Asia. Korean cinema is taking the world by storm, and I would really like to see more of it screening in Egypt.
Friday is the festival’s last day, and the winners will be announced in the closing ceremony tonight. So stay tuned for the very last post of CIFF FestBeat tomorrow, where I’ll talk about who won and general trends I have noticed this year. I’m now heading to the very last screening of CIFF37 before the winners are announced. A Present From the Past (Kawthar Younis, 2015) is most likely going to be a blast of an ending. I’m excited to see it.