The year of 2019 has been one of many historical firsts for the 41st edition of the Cairo International Film Festival. As not only the region’s oldest and largest annual film festival but also the only internationally accredited one in the Middle East and Africa, the CIFF has a longstanding legacy of bridging the Arab cinematic world with the global industry. This year, CIFF also became the first Arab film festival to sign the 5050×2020 gender equality pledge, committing to empowering women and increasing transparency about issues of gender disparity in the Middle Eastern film industry.
Adding yet another accolade to the list, CIFF achieved Oscar-qualifying film festival status in the Short Film category last weekend, becoming the only festival in North Africa to join Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and other prestigious events in this recognition. The winner of the Best Short Film award in the Cinema of Tomorrow section of CIFF will be eligible to compete in next year’s Academy Awards’ Animated and Live Action Short Film Categories without a theatrical release, according to a press statement. This year, Cinema of Tomorrow features 21 international competitors with almost half of the entries hailing from the region and being filmed in Arabic, meaning we could potentially see an Arab contender at the 2021 Oscars ceremony.
“We are incredibly proud to have been selected to join the ranks of Oscar qualifying festivals and grateful to AMPAS for their support of our Festival,” said CIFF President Mohamed Hefzy. “This honour is a validation of our Festival and the incredible selection of innovative films we showcase every year from some of the most exciting filmmaking talent working in the global film industry today. The opportunity to gain this type of recognition will help filmmakers achieve global attention for their extraordinary storytelling in the short film format.”
Hefzy made the announcement during the opening of the Cairo Industry Days, a multi-day event running in conjunction with the Festival to nurture the local cinema scene, providing emerging talent a platform to participate in workshops, seminars, and masterclasses with successful industry experts from around the world. Aspiring Arab filmmakers can also win up to USD 200,000-worth of monetary support for yet-to-be-completed projects.
Running until November 29, CIFF offers 10 days of acclaimed premieres and inspiring discussions with a lineup of 153 films from more than 60 countries.
“We have a great competition, a great lineup this year,” Hefzy previously told Vogue Arabia on the red carpet. Not only will there be industry sessions and an entire competition dedicated to virtual reality films, but also an exhibition sharing the rich history of Cairo and its deep relation with cinema, continued Hefzy. The exhibition, “Cairo…I Love You” opened yesterday to the public at El Hanager Theater with the Egyptian Minister of Culture Inas Abdel-Dayem and classic Egyptian actors Elham Shahin and Lebleba in attendance.
With Hefzy, legendary Egyptian actor Yousra, and directors Amr Salama and Talal Derki among other regional talent inducted as voting jury members of the Oscar Committee this year, it’s clear the Middle Eastern film industry is one to keep on your radar.