These days, the activities of the fifth session of the El Gouna Film Festival, which lasts for a week, are being held in a tourist resort near the Egyptian city of Hurghada.
As usual, the festival raises a wide debate on social media and raises questions about the importance of film festivals, and their impact on the Arab film industry.
We are also accustomed to this artistic forum to be an attractive event that attracts an audience that seemed more interested in commenting on the views of the artists than on the works presented.
Fire.. and cultural debates
But this year, there was talk and controversy about the festival before its launch and before the participating artists showed off their looks on the red carpet.
Festival followers began their talk this year with the news of the “El Gouna fire”, a small fire that broke out in the main exhibition hall hours before the opening of the festival.
The firefighting teams were able to control the fire quickly without causing any major losses.
But the damage to the main exhibition hall, prompted some to expect a delay in the opening, so rush to publish Caricatures expressing their “joy” over the fire and their “gloating” on the festival’s organizers and patrons.
Businessman Naguib Sawiris, who founded and financed the festival with his brother Samih, celebrated the success of containing the fire, by posting a tweet accompanied by a picture of the hall after it was repainted. He joked, “Where’s the fire?”
While many questioned the reason for gloating in an accident that causes losses that could have had victims.
News of the fire died out as soon as the pictures of the building were spread again, but the discussion intensified between the festival’s pioneers and its followers on Twitter, to take on other dimensions.
With the beginning of the fire crisis and talk about the possibility of postponing the opening, Naguib Sawiris said that the opening will take place on time, but it is possible that some changes may occur in the organization.
One of the changes he mentioned is that VIP guests may have to sit with normal people.”
Sawiris’ statement was met with a lot of deplorable and sarcastic reactions.
In another post, the Egyptian producer, Mohamed Al-Adl, criticized the slanderous comments about the fire, and wrote in a colloquial tone: “Before you set up a joy (party) because of what happened in El Gouna and that it was our Lord’s revenge because of the dresses… Remember that there is a crane that fell in the Great Mosque of Mecca, and he was killed and injured Many in Ihram clothes… and the examples are many…”
This post angered many of those who republished it, with comments rejecting “the comparison between artistic activities and the performance of religious rites.”
It seems that the angry comments prompted Muhammad Al-Adl to delete his post and publish an apology, denying his intention to compare the two events.
While others praised Al-Adl’s words as “a response to the most eminent critics of the artists’ appearances”, especially those who described the fire as “the wrath of God against the festival.”
Commenting on what happened, art critic Tariq Al-Shennawi described the two slanders in the fire as “a limited category that forbids art.”
A movie show or a fashion show?
As soon as the festival was launched, the artists topped the list of the most frequently discussed topics on social networking sites in several Arab countries.
Unlike their male colleagues, the female artists are under attack by different groups that see their looks and clothes as “exaggerated daring that contradicts the values and customs of conservative Arab societies.”
This year, the festival’s participants did not escape criticism, as phrases such as “The birth of Sidi Al-Arian”, “What are these indecent clothes” and “Where is Al-Azhar from what is happening?” spread.
On the other hand, others defended the right of the stars to wear these clothes, rejecting the rulings made by those who call them “moral guards and haters of women.”
Others, however, see this repeated discussion of women’s fashion as a reflection of “the positive relationship between the classes of Egyptian society, especially between the stars of art and the masses.”
While others played down that vision, saying that it is nothing more than an entertainment event that some resort to to break the state of boredom.
Many find the El Gouna Festival and other events an opportunity to make jokes and install satirical cartoons that try to mimic the looks of the stars and their controversial statements.
The dress of the Egyptian artist, Naglaa Badr, and the hat of the Lebanese artist, Maya Diab, captured the attention of the tweeters who spotted the strangest fashion trends at the festival.
On the other hand, tweeters praised the organizational procedures of the festival, which, according to them, has become competing with major international film festivals.
Others also highlighted the platforms supporting filmmakers at the festival and the lists of international films shown at this edition.
From this point of view, some avid cinema-goers say that the festival has contributed, since its inception, to the development of the film industry.
But there is another point of view that the festival did not offer anything new this year. Some commentators consider that the festival has become more associated with the red carpet and with a specific list of faces that appear in each session.
Others hope that part of the money spent on the El Gouna Festival will be devoted to the production of targeted cinematic films that match the good old films and touch the reality of society.
In the same context, the statements of the Egyptian star and actor Ahmed El-Sakka about the cinema of the nineties sparked widespread controversy.
During a speech he gave on the occasion of his honor at the 5th edition of the El Gouna Festival, El-Sakka said that “Egyptian cinema suffered from suffocation until the revival came with the Ismailia film Rayeh Gay”, which some considered a derogation from the previous history of Egyptian cinema.
Later, El-Sakka clarified, during a press conference, that he was talking about technologies and theaters, adding that “the films before Ismailia, going to come, did not take their right from the capabilities and development, so the capabilities of the artists were high, but without advanced technical capabilities.”
Al-Sakkas talk opened the discussion about the mechanisms of developing Egyptian cinema and the period that characterized the cinema of the nineties and before.
While some see that conference and other events as a success to be reckoned with the El Gouna Festival, which established lively discussions that will advance the artistic field in Egypt, others describe the festival as superficial and as a mere propaganda and an occasion for entertainment in the picturesque Red Sea resort, in which the simple citizen cannot afford the price of accommodation. .
The fifth edition of the El Gouna Film Festival was launched from 14 to 22 October, with the participation of filmmakers from 44 countries around the world. The film festival added a new annual award called the “Green Star” concerned with environmental issues.