On Wednesday evening, emerging filmmakers received long overdue recognition from Egypt’s Minister of Culture and leading figures in the industry for their work on short documentaries chronicling different aspects of the January 25 Revolution.
Mona Iraqi took first prize for “Friday of Departure,” while “A Revolution Story” by Nagy Ismail took second place and Ahmed El-Tanbouly’s “Curfew” came in third. The awards were presented at the closing ceremony for the CAM Short Film Festival, which was attended by Minister of Culture Emad Abu Ghazi, and dedicated to the martyrs of the revolution.
The winning film, which was screened at the festival’s opening ceremony on Monday, chronicles the events of the revolution as covered by Egyptian state television. Iraqi’s film captures state TV’s horrifyingly comic disregard for reality through clever juxtapositions of commentary alleging foreign conspiracy with shots of the diverse and harmonious masses in Tahrir Square. Iraqi’s cohesive and professional film suggests that documentary films have an important role to play in Egypt’s developing media landscape.
Nagy Ismail’s 11-minute runner up film examines the involvement of prominent actors and artists in the revolution, and features Basma, Mahmoud Hemeida, Tarek El-Telmesany, Amr Waked, Asser Yassin and Yousra El Lozy in Tahrir Square. Ismail is successful in creating a focused and informative document that does not rely on the star power of its subjects, but offers fresh insight on the decision of these figures to participate in the events of the revolution.
Ahmed El-Tanbouly’s “Curfew” is a story of newfound integrity that effectively portrays the explosion of Egyptian pride and community responsibility prompted by the revolution through the transformation of a former criminal into a bona-fide Egyptian citizen, unwilling to compromise his values by participating in corruption.
The winners were chosen by a panel of judges that included director and producer Marianne Khoury, Amr Waked and revered filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah, who were chosen by the organizers for their active involvement and support for the revolution.
The festival was a refreshing showcase of diverse perspectives on recent events. From action-based films to probing documentaries, the films presented at the festival go beyond Tahrir Square to capture a range of emotions and events experienced by Egyptians from Alexandria and Cairo to Aswan.
The program of screenings included over 30 short films varying in length from one to 20 minutes. All films are the work of Egyptian directors, with the exception of “Nafas El-Horreya Bikam,” directed by French-American Raphaelle Ayach.
The three-day festival also featured two lectures, “Egyptian Cinema: What’s Next” and “The Role of the Ministry of Culture in Publishing and Supporting Films by Youth,” which provided a productive arena for discussion of the future of filmmaking in the new Egypt.
The presence of Egypt’s Minister of Culture at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the festival indicates a fresh approach by the new regime to supporting new local talents. According to the festival’s president, prominent critic Ali Abu Shadi, the CAM Festival is just the first of many events to support the development of young artists in Egypt.
At a press conference held before the opening of the festival, Abu Shadi emphasized the importance of documentary film to the revolution and the necessity of providing a creative platform for the ideas and perspectives of amateur filmmakers.
The CAM Festival provided a much-needed arena for the creative aspirations of young filmmakers. As these activities continue, film enthusiasts can look forward to a new wave of cinematic innovation in Egypt, and many more festivals to come.