The main hall of the opera house was packed on Friday night, as movie stars and cinema icons flocked to collect their trophies at the closing ceremony of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). During the course of ten days, 159 films were screened from 62 countries worldwide. This year’s festival presented a handful of young talent, most of whom were presenting their first feature films, and whose brilliance and creativity was quite vivid.
The FIPRESCI award (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique), or the International Federation of Film Critics award, went to director Mona Achache for her first long feature film "The Hedgehog" (France) which is based on the novel "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery, and features the story of a highly intelligent, yet suicidal 11-year-old. The International Competition for Digital Feature Films award for best first production and best director went to Indian director and producer Krishnan Seshardi Gomatam for his film "First Time" (India), which depicted an obsessive film maker and his race against time to create his film and to Kurdish director and producer Ahmed Zirek for his first film, "Exile in Paris" (France) based on his biography. The Best Digital Film award went to "The Rapture of Fe" (Philippines) which told the story of a woman torn between an abusive husband and a weak lover.
The Arab Competition for Long Feature Films award given for best the Best Arabic long feature film as well as best screenplay went to the Palestinian/American film "Amreeka", directed by Shereen Dabis. "Amreeka" follows the life of a single Palestinian mother and her teenage son from the check points of the West Bank to a little town in Illinois. A special mention in the same category went to "The Long Night" (Syria) directed by Hatim Ali and the Egyptian film "Heliopolis" (Egypt) directed by Ahmad Abdallah. The stories in both films take place during one day. The former focuses on political prisoners and the lives they left behind on the night of their release, while the latter examines the Egyptian status quo through the eyes of young lower-middle-class Cairians.
The International Competition for Long Feature Films awarded the Youssef Chahine award for cinematic creativity to "One War" (Russia), which was based off real-life events that took place during World War II. The Naguib Mahfouz award for best first time director went to director Gonzalo Calzada for his film "Luisa" (Argentina), which narrated the tragic past of a woman living in solitude, and the Saad el-Deen Wahba award for best screenplay went to Klaus Haro for "Letters to Father Jacob" (Finland). The Best Director award went to Mona Achache for her film "The Hedgehog" (France), and the Best Actor awards went to both Egyptian actor Fathi Abdel Wahaab for his role in "Nile Birds" (Egypt) and to Subrat Dutta for his role in "Madholal Keep Walking" (India). "Nile Birds" was based off the book of the same title written by prominent Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Aslan, which examined the ugly face of urban Cairo. In "Madholal Keep Walking", Subrat Dutta played the role of a simple man living a simple life who encounters a tragic accident and manages to pull himself up onto his own two feet again.
The Best Actress award went to Karolina Piechota for her role in "Splinters" (Poland) which portrays the lives of three young people living in isolation. The Special Jury’s Silver Pyramid award went to director Mona Achache for her film "The Hedgehog" (France) and the Gold Pyramid award went to "Letters to Father Jacob" (Finland), which depicted the dynamic relationship between an ex-convict and a blind priest.