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Film Festival Global concerns in Cairo

RITA DI SANTO reports from a film festival with an acute international perspective

CAIRO International Film Festival — the oldest in the entire Arab World, Africa and the Middle East — has just celebrated its 40th anniversary.


With some 200 films in the programme, it's been a showcase for the wealth of talent and diversity of Egyptian and global cinema, with a mix of features, documentary, retrospectives and experiments in virtual reality.


The festival is a unique opportunity to see films from Tunisia, Algeria and other Arabic and African countries unlikely to get a screening in mainstream cinemas and one of the best in the programme was Philippe Faucon’s Amin, an intelligent and profound exploration of the struggles of immigrant workers trying to adapt to life in a foreign country.


It centres on Amin, a Senegalese who has moved to France for work, leaving his three children and wife behind. His story highlights the plight of immigrants, giving a clear and compassionate understating of their working conditions and their place in an inhumane society.


A powerful exploration of people searching for a new identity, its full-blooded performances create an emotional impact akin to the films of Ken Loach.


One of the most popular films, the festival's opener, was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, the story of an Italian-American bouncer who's the driver for an Africa-American classical pianist on tour in the US Deep South of the 1960s.


It's a compelling snapshot from the past that speaks to the present, aided by great performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.


The festival enjoys the support of a hugely dedicated audience and the main hall of the city's Opera House’s Main Hall was sold out for Giraffe, the impressive debut feature by Egyptian director Ahmed Magdy.


Featuring a cast of unknowns, it explores the hot topic of abortion, still illegal in Egypt. It follows a group of friends who, seeking the money for a termination, embark on a claustrophobic, surreal journey into the lunacy of a city of contrasts and enigmas.


Marked by sardonic intelligence and a no-frills toughness, it's a chilling exposure of the way the state can impose on all aspects of existence as it explores the struggles of young people standing up for their rights.


It typified a festival that, beneath its surface glamour, offered some acute insights into the realities of life in the region and beyond.



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