Posted by Larry Gleeson
Egypt has shown a strong participation at the latest edition of the Dubai International Film Festival. Egyptian directors featured prominently at the festival, showcasing a wide variety of unique films in various segments of the festival. Much of their works were a welcome departure from the usually commercial formulas followed by many directors.
Starting with Withered Green, the film’s young director Mohammed Hammad was awarded the best long film director in the Long Muhr feature competition. This is the film’s first award after having competed in six other film festivals.
Withered Green tells the story of Eman, portrayed by young actor Asmaa Fawzy, who is an extremely conservative religious woman living according to enforced societal and cultural limits that confine her to be a specific person. This is translated through her actions, as she takes people’s opinions of her into account and shows uptight restrictions against all of the withering social traditions while raising her younger sister Noha, after the death of their parents. For a girl that lives a strict life, in which moving away from the mainstream path is not allowed, her life is upended by a life altering event that changes her forever.
“Every main character in any film has its own mechanical rhythm, like robots, but for Iman’s character, and as we follow her life’s details, there is not much happening to her. I tried to focus on her, as a woman, to engage the audience with her character more than with what’s going on around her,” Hammad said at the film’s premier in the festival.
The films is also written and co-produced by Hammad alongside producer Mohamed Hefzy. The film follows the path of independent films in Egypt, which struggle to gain recognition on par with commercial films.
“The most important thing for independent films in Egypt is the artistic quality and the quantity of films produced. It won’t be possible for you to make your voice heard or leave an impact, without mass production. As for the distribution, it should be diverse with all the films getting equal opportunities because at the end of the day, no one can ever determine which film will make a difference and capture the audience’s interest,” Hammad added.
As for the Egyptian actor Ali Sobhi, he was awarded the best actor award for his role in Ali, Me’za w Ibrahim (Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim). This marks the film’s first award.
The film tells the story of Ali who was born and raised in a rough neighbourhood before he travels across Cairo with Ibrahim based on the recommendation of a psychic due to voices he hears in his head. Their journey turns into a voyage of friendship and self-discovery.
Directed by Sherif El Bendary, Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim is written by Ahmed Amer, based on Ibrahim El Batout’s story and is produced by Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic, Transit Films of Hossam Elouan, and the French film production company Arizona Productions.