Egypt's Aswan int'l women film gala screens over 50 films to advocate women's issues

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Aswan International Women Film Festival (AIWFF) focuses on women's issues and seeks to emphasize women's role via the cinema industry, said Egyptian screenwriter Mohamed Abdel-Khalek.

"What is new this year is that we have the ability to screen three Oscar-nominated films, which we were unable to do before," said Abdel-Khalek, AIWFF founder and president, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Held on Feb. 10-15 under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, the festival screens in its ongoing fourth edition more than 50 films from over 30 states, of which 31 films have been selected to participate in the official competitions for long and short film.

There are 11 films contesting in the long film competition, including eight feature films, two documentaries and an animation film for the first time in AIWFF, while the short film competition involves 20 films including ten feature films, six documentaries and four animation films, according to the festival's president.

"The Egyptian cinema was glorious in the past when it had female elements as protagonists, filmmakers and producers and focused on the role of women in its content," AIWFF chief continued.

"It will restore its glory by reviving the role of women in cinema, which is the idea of our festival that focuses on women and their causes," he added.

Among the films featured in the festival are "Certified Mail" and "Cairo 678" from Egypt, "The 7th Day" from Spain, "The Seasons of Thirst" from Morocco, "Instinct" from the Netherlands, "Pacarrete" from Brazil, and "Daughter" from the Czech Republic.

One of the Oscar-nominated films screened in AIWFF 2020 is the Syrian documentary "The Cave," which has already won nine awards in different festivals.

Jury members for the different competitions of the festival include movie stars and filmmakers from Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, Italy, Romania, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Nigeria.

"Since its establishment in 2017, AIWFF is based on four pillars: the films discussing women's issues, a forum for women's issues gathering activists from different countries, workshops for youth filmmaking trainees and a salon for film producers," said the Egyptian screenwriter.

He continued that the workshop program started with 70 male and female trainees in the first session in 2017 and reached now 210 trainees participating in the six workshops to learn about the production of films reflecting women's issues and concerns.

"Among the results of these workshops is the production of short feature films by Aswan youth who have never been trained on filmmaking except through AIWFF," Abdel-Khalek said enthusiastically.

The festival's president noted that youth trainee filmmakers from Aswan are currently filming six feature films at Aswan streets as their workshop projects for this year.

He added that three documentaries produced by the festival's youth trainees were selected to take part in Ismailia International Film Festival in Egypt last year.

Sponsored by the Egyptian National Council for Women and co-funded by the European Union, AIWFF selects an international star or filmmaker as a guest of honor every year since the first edition in 2017.

"They don't have to be females. They can be females who have been contributing to women's causes or working for decades in the cinema industry, or males who advocate women's issues like American actor and director Danny Glover, who was hosted by AIWFF 2018," the festival's president told Xinhua.

The opening ceremony of the gala honored Spanish award-winning actress Victoria Abril, guest of honor of AIWFF 2020, and Egyptian actresses Nelly Karim and Ragaa el-Geddawy.

Abdel-Khalek praised the Chinese cinema and its strong presence in the 41st Cairo International Film Festival in late 2019, noting that former AIWFF editions also hosted Chinese films and filmmakers and looking forward to seeing Chinese participation in the coming editions.

"The Chinese cinema industry is huge and necessary to approach. I believe cooperation with China and learning from their filmmaking expertise will greatly boost the Egyptian cinema," the festival's founder and president told Xinhua. 

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