El Gouna Film Festival consolidates its presence in the Arab world… and has succeeded in occupying an important position on the world stage

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El Gouna “Arab Jerusalem”: Although the El Gouna Festival was not taken seriously when it was launched five years ago, some described it as a passing promotional ploy devised by the two famous Egyptian businessmen, the brothers Samih and Naguib Sawiris, to promote their tourist village, El Gouna, which was founded by Samih in 1990 Although the Arab media focused on the costumes of the stars instead of the films participating in it, the festival succeeded, within a few years, in leading the Arab film festivals in terms of showing the most prominent Arab and international films, supporting Arab talents, occupying an important position on the global scene, and attracting the attention of Arab and international media and the global film industry.
Since its inception, it has provided support for many Arab projects, whether in the development or post-production stage, such as the Palestinian film Amin Nayfeh “200 Meters”, the Lebanese film Walid Mounes “1982” and the Tunisian film Kawthar Ben Hania “The Man Who Sold His Back”. These films went on to win important prizes at international festivals and represented their countries in the Oscar competition for the best international film, while “The Man Who Sold His Back” achieved the first nomination for Tunisia.
The establishment of the El Gouna Festival coincided with the cancellation of the last most important Arab film festival, the “Dubai International Film Festival” in 2018. That festival was considered the backbone of modern Arab cinema, whose emergence coincided with its launch in 2003. It was followed by the “Abu Dhabi” festival in 2007 and the “Doha” festival. 2009.
These Gulf festivals provided material, production and promotional support for the talents of modern Arab cinema, which was born on the ruins of classic Egyptian cinema, which breathed its last in the early nineties of the last century when Arab satellite channels turned them into cheap consumer products, while the phenomenon of piracy of films on the Internet plunged production companies into crises. Existential materialism and prompted most cinemas in all Arab countries to close their doors.

Arab filmmakers heading to Europe

The deterioration of artistic film production in Egypt, which was the beating heart of Arab cinema, pushed Arab filmmakers to Europe, where official funds there provided them with financial support for the production of their films, while other institutions such as the American “Sundance” Institute provided workshops in which young directors such as the Palestinian Hani participated. Abu Asaad, with the “Paradise Now” project, which later became the first Arab film to win the “Golden Globe” award and achieve the first Arab nomination for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2007, as well as the Lebanese Ziad Doueiri, who participated in his film “West Beirut”, which won many Global awards. It is noteworthy that Doueiri achieved Lebanon’s first Oscar nomination for the movie “Cassade 23” in 2018.
But that foreign support was limited and was provided only to Arab filmmakers who had foreign nationalities and lived outside the Arab world. Also, these films did not reach the Arab masses, who were obsessed with commercial melodramatic satellite TV series, while official institutions did not pay attention to them and did not provide them with any production or promotional support. Unlike European countries, Arab governments did not allocate budgets for art and culture and did not realize its importance and impact on developing the awareness of their societies and the world’s view of them.
But the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and holding all Arabs and Muslims responsible for those attacks and the media attack on Arab civilization and the Islamic religion and their stereotyping in Hollywood films awakened some Arab governments from their heedlessness and made them realize the importance of cinema in developing the intellectual and cultural awareness of their societies and introducing the Western world On its civilization, religion and history from an Arab and Muslim perspective to correct the stereotypical orientalist Hollywood discourse.
Arab countries support cinema
The Gulf countries, specifically Qatar and the UAE, were the pioneers in supporting Arab cinema through the establishment of support funds for Arab talents and film festivals on an international level in the Arab world. This support contributed to the production of hundreds of Arab films, some of which reached the world by participating in the most prominent film festivals, such as Cannes, Venice, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto, and won their most important awards, while some were nominated for Oscars. Since 2007, Arab cinema has achieved nearly twenty nominations for awards. The Oscars The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited nearly eighty talents to join it.
These achievements attracted the attention of the international film industry to Arab talents and opened its doors to them, such as Abu Asaad, who made a Hollywood movie, “The Mountain Between Us,” Doueiri, who co-directed a television series in France, and the Egyptian Mohamed Diab, who is participating in making the Marvel series these days. , “Moon Night”, while many of the representatives of these Arab films won roles in international and Hollywood films, such as the Palestinian Ali Suleiman, the Egyptian Omar Waked, the Moroccan Lubna Azbal and the Palestinian Hiam Abbas.
That is why Arab filmmakers panicked when it was announced the cancellation of the last Gulf festival, Dubai, and some began to speculate about the end of the wave of modern Arab cinema, as they did not expect that the El Gouna Festival, which was launched that year, would fill the vast void left by the rich Gulf festivals. But El-Gouna surprised them and achieved more than they needed, as his presence in Egypt, the cradle of classical Arab cinema, gave him a special advantage that was lacking in the Gulf festivals, which were unable to attract a large number of Arab stars due to their geographical distance. The intense presence of Arab film and television stars on El Gounas red carpet attracted wide Arab media coverage, which gave it the characteristics of magic on the one hand, and on the other hand attracted the most important Arab and international films that emerged in international festivals. The Italian Venice.
That is why the El Gouna Festival has become considered the most magical event in the Arab world, attracting its celebrities from all over, where they bring Sawiris’ private planes an invitation from the festival or give them a chance to shine on the red carpet and pay thousands of dollars for an entry ticket to the opening ceremony. But few of them watch his participating films or express interest in his cinematic activities.
In the current session, the festival presents several Arab and international films, most of which were shown in major international festivals such as Cannes, Venice and Berlin, similar to the documentary film “Captain Al-Zaatari” that was shown at the Berlin Festival, and three Arab films that participated in the competitions of the Cannes Festival, namely the Moroccan “Ali Your Voice.” The Egyptian film “Feathers”, which won the grand prize in the directors’ weekly competition, the Lebanese “The Sea Before You”, which participated in the Critics’ Week competition, and the Egyptian and Lebanese films “Princess” and “Costa Brava”, which competed in the Venice Film Festival. in the categories of “Aafaq” and “Aafaq Extra” respectively.
Also participating in the festival is Audrey Diwan’s French film “The Event”, which won the Golden Lion at the last Venice Film Festival.
The festival’s activities, which also include workshops, lectures, night parties and the distribution of grants for projects in development or post-production stages, will continue until the evening of next Friday, when prizes will be awarded to the winning films in a noisy ceremony in the same hall in which the opening ceremony was held.



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