Cairo festival empowers young film-makers

Sunday 23/10/2016
Nour Abyad (L) receiving an award at the festival (AFP)

Cairo - Empowering young film-makers and ending cin­ema production monopo­lies by huge companies was the main motivation behind the Cairo Mobile Film Festi­val contest recently in Cairo.

The festival, organised under the It is you, not the budget banner, al­lowed talented directors and ac­tors who may not have had enough money to produce films using sophisticated cameras, light and sound systems and expensive tech­niques, opportunities to produce and show their films.

“A film-maker did not need more than a cell phone with a camera to make his own film,” said Ghada Gobara, a cinema critic and a fes­tival jury member. “I would never have believed this if I had been told about it 20 years ago.”

A total of 120 films were entered and 60 films from 18 countries were given spots in the contest.

“There were films from the Unit­ed States, Spain, France and a large number of Arab countries,” said Magdi Fouda, a cinema professor and the director of the festival. “It was an excellent opportunity for young cinema-makers to showcase their talent at a very low cost.”

The competition featured young film-makers for whom film-making was a dream impossible to realise if they had applied to large produc­tion companies. They had no mon­ey, no sophisticated equipment or contacts to publicise their produc­tions but only their talents and a dream to carve a niche in cinema.

Some of the film-makers man­aged to do this, producing films of elevated artistic quality.

Islam Mohamed, an Egyptian cinema student, made a film about society’s lack of respect for women, filming a series of interviews. Called the Interview Room, Mohamed’s film shows employers interviewing female jobseekers.

“Questions employers usually ask female applicants during job in­terviews reflect the way they view women’s role in society in general,” Mohamed said. “Sorry to say, the way society views women’s role is very mean and I wanted to show this through my film.”

It cost Mohamed only $10 to make his film, an amount he spent decorating one of the locations he used.

Nour Abyad, an Egyptian cinema institute graduate, also spent just a few dollars — in her case to buy a tripod — for her film I like it fast and automatic. Abyad used stop-mo­tion techniques, which physically manipulate an object so that it ap­pears to move on its own, in making her film.

Abyad’s film focused on the hu­man identity and how some people become ridiculous when they for­get their identity and try to become somebody else.

“The festival was a great chance for me and other aspiring cinema workers,” Abyad said. “My name would have never made it to news­paper headlines in a cinema world controlled only by those who have money but for such an event.”

Abyad’s film won second place in the contest. A Spanish film The Cloud won the top prize and the Czech film How I Became a Movie Theatre Murderer came in third place.

Films in the contest ought to be no longer than three minutes. They covered all genres, including com­edy, romance, tragedy and horror.

The timing of the contest could not be more suitable. A small number of production companies monopolise the Egyptian cinema scene and few producers are ready to risk losing money on young di­rectors like Mohamed and Abyad, specialists say.

Cell phone cinema opens the door for talent to demonstrate itself without waiting to be discovered by financial backers.

“Such an event breaks the mo­nopoly imposed on the cinema scene by those who have money,” said cinema critic Magda Morris. “By empowering young and uncon­nected film-makers, the festival gives these film-makers the chance to dream and have their own place on the cinema stage.”