El Gouna Film Festival 2018
El Gouna film festival 2018
September 2018 finally brought us the 2nd edition of the El Gouna Film Festival. It was a highly anticipated event due to the outstanding success of last years 1st edition. This 1st edition was extremely well organised and highly sophisticated. With many angles to consider and the ever-present threat of first-time errors, everything went off without any problems.
The film festival’s central location gets set up in the New Marina with a custom built, temporary structure to accommodate the red carpet, large reception area and, of course, the auditorium itself. Decorative styles for both editions have been outstanding and its hard to believe you’re in a temporary space when attending the festival. Last year we had a healthy host of celebrities – Vanessa Williams, Dylan McDermott and Forrest Whittaker while this year brought a different set of celebrities.
The opening ceremony
The red carpet event was electric with expectation and buzz. A host of media reporters all had their positions ready as the celebrities made their way along the carpet. The celebrities paraded dresses and outfits of outlandish styles – much to the media personnel’s delight. The actors and actresses were extremely gracious to interviewers and cameramen – taking their time to answer questions and pose. Most gracious of all was Bushra, actress and El Gouna Film Festival co-founder, who spent over an hour on the carpet engaging with people and never letting her smile fade.
Once everybody was seated inside, the festival kicked off with the song ‘’ El Alam Gouna’’ (The World is Gouna) sung by a number of Egyptian film stars such as Asser Yassin, Yousra, , Jamila Awad, Ahmed Malek, Ahmed Dawoud, Chico, Hesham Maged, Mona Zaki, Yamine Raies, Dina Al Sherbiny, Sherif Mounir, Tamer Habib and Menna Shalaby and many more.
Hosting the evening was presenter Raya Abi Rashed who praised cinema as a way of understanding reality. She also made special mention of many of the aforementioned film stars for their contribution to film. Red Sea Governor, Ahmed Abdallah, in his speech spoke of how the film festival is a portal to get more visitors to El Gouna so that they too can experience its unrivaled beauty.
The festival spanned 7 days of buzz for El Gouna. The entrance gate was queued with purpose bought London taxis, limousines and busloads of visitors. The Sea Cinema, El Gouna’s own cinema complex, was closed down for 2 months in preparation for the film festival. Considering the cinema complex was built for the film festival in the first place, it was not too much to ask. Along with the Sea cinema, the TUB campus also screened a number of films, hosted workshops and was the central hub of the festival.
The closing ceremony
The word around town was that Sylvester Stallone was visiting El Gouna. Nobody seemed to know if it was truth or simply hearsay but the Italian Stallion made an appearance and was awarded a career achievement prize for 40 years in the industry. Bushra introduced him but his entrance was preceded by a montage of all his action films. The crowd loved it. When he walked on stage, the audience’s response was deafening. His speech was short but rather humorous as he rolled a few air punches paying homage to the Rocky films. He mentioned how he had not been to Egypt before but stated, with a smirk, “I’ll be back”. And so, like last year, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spirit was still with us.
Owen Wilson also graced El Gouna with his presence and was well received at the closing ceremony. The presenter even took it upon herself to take a selfie with him with the audience in the background.
A number of awards went out, most of which were applauded heavily when the results were read. The following list includes the Gold Star (1st prize) awards for various categories.
Best Arab Documentary Film Of Fathers and Sons. Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Talal Derki, gains the trust of a radical Islamist family and films their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses mainly on the children, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up with a father whose only dream is to establish an Islamic Caliphate.
Best Documentary Film. Aquarela.This film is a visceral wake-up call that humans are no match for the sheer force and capricious will of Earth’s most precious element, water. Aquarela is a startling visualization of the many personalities of water.
Best Narrative Film A Land Imagined After forming a virtual friendship with a mysterious gamer, Wang, a lonely construction worker from China, goes missing at a Singapore land reclamation site. Lok, a police investigator, follows his tracks into the cyber cafe where he used to hang out to meet his virtual friend.
Best Short Film Our song to war. In a story about life after the end of war, Crocodile-men, a mystical river and some kids who like fishing share the same Colombian land, Bojaya; a place where villagers have strange beliefs and practice the “Novenario” death ritual.
Best Actor Mohamed Dhrif in Dear Son. Riadh and Nazli’s life revolves around their only son Sami, who is preparing for his high school exams. The boy’s repeated migraine attacks are a cause of much worry to his parents. But when he finally seems to be getting better, Sami suddenly disappears
Best Actress Joanna Kulig in Cold War. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris, Cold War is a passionate love story between a man and a woman of different backgrounds and temperaments, completely mismatched and yet fatefully condemned to each other.
Last year, the film festival ended with a final screening. Very few people stayed for the film and by the end, even fewer were left. This probably had something to with the fact that the final screening was dropped this year. Not having a viewing did make for a very sudden end to the festival and of course, the exits bottlenecked. But everybody quickly scuttled off to their after parties and the El Gouna Film festival, 2nd edition, was yet another success.