Aswan festival puts spotlight on women in film

The documentary “Before Father Gets Back” by Mari Gulbiani of Georgia won the festival award for Best Long Film. The film is a joint production among Georgia, France and Germany.
Friday 01/03/2019
Barbara Bouchet, center, a German-American actress, is honored during the third edition of Aswan International Women Film Festival (AIWFF), in Aswan, Egypt, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP)
Barbara Bouchet, center, a German-American actress, is honored during the third edition of Aswan International Women Film Festival (AIWFF), in Aswan, Egypt, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP)

LONDON - The third Aswan Women’s Film Festival concluded with awards given to female figures honoured for their contributions to the world of cinema.

The documentary “Before Father Gets Back” by Mari Gulbiani of Georgia won the festival award for Best Long Film. The film is a joint production among Georgia, France and Germany.

The story takes place in a mountain village in Georgia, where students are preparing for their first film viewing experience in the classroom. The experience was a turning point in the lives of two Muslim girls, Eman and Eva.

Eleven films competed in the category. The jury was presided over by Egyptian actress Laila Alawi and included Souad Houssein, former director of the film programme of the Francophone Organisation; South African producer Gugulethu Mseleku; Elias Khallat, founder and director of the Tripoli Film Festival; and French producer Jacques Bidou.

The award for Best Actress went to Luli Bitri for her role in the Greek film “Holy Boom,” while George Bochorishvili of Georgia won the Best Actor Award for his role in “Horizon.”

The award for Best Screenplay went to Maria Lafi and Elena Dimitrakopoulou for “Holy Boom,” while Laszlo Nemes of Hungary won the Best Director Award for his film “Sunset.” The Jury’s Special Prize was awarded to the Yemeni film “Ten Days Before the Wedding” by Amr Gamal.

The Aswan International Women Film Festival this year introduced a special competition dedicated to Egyptian cinema. The jury for this competition was composed of Egyptian journalist Karima Kamal, Lebanese actress Nour and Moroccan film critic Abdel Razek El-Zaher. Anas Tolba’s film “Between Two Seas” won prizes for Best Film and Best Film Supporting Women’s Issues.

“The third edition is over and we are full of hope. The edition is over but our work does not stop,” said festival President Mohamed Abdel Khalik. “We look forward to a new edition, new movies and endless dreams.”

The festival was founded three years ago to highlight films that discuss women’s issues. Its prize statuette was designed as a statue of Isis, the moon goddess in Egypt’s ancient mythology, symbol of motherhood, love and loyalty.

The festival opened February 20 with a screening of the Mexican film “Dos Fridas” (“Two Fridas”) directed by Costa Rican female director of Iraqi origin Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez and produced by Producciones Astarte headed by Luis Javier. The 92-minute-long film was shown in its original Spanish version. At the opening ceremony also, Egyptian artists Mohsena Tawfiq and Mona Shalaby were honoured.

The festival, which ended February 26, featured 32 films that were entered in the long and short film competitions. There were films from Yemen, Spain, Germany, Sri Lanka, China, the Palestinian territories, France, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Morocco, England, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt, Italy, Georgia and Hungary.

In addition to the film screenings, the festival featured workshops related to the film industry, including a scenario workshop conducted by scriptwriter Wissam Suleiman. Director Mahmoud Suleiman conducted a workshop on how to make a documentary.

There was also a workshop for people aged 18-35 on animation conducted by Ashraf Mehdi, an instructor at the Faculty of Fine Arts and film producer. Another animation workshop, in cooperation with the Animation School-Jesuit Cairo, was meant for children aged 7-16. It was conducted by artist Ibrahim Saad, producer, director and founder of the Animation School.

The list of workshops included a documentary making class led by director Aida el-Kashef. Documentaries by participants in previous festivals were screened.