At the Egyptian festival of El Gouna, films, sequins and keffiyeh

At the Egyptian festival of El Gouna, films, sequins and keffiyeh


Evening dresses and keffiyehs intersect on the red carpets. Strange ballet, which both celebrates cinema and is outraged about the fate of Palestine. Under the alcoves of a majestic pavilion surrounded by water mirrors, on the Egyptian shores of the Red Sea, the elite of local and international cinema are gathered. Cinema-loving visitors, golden youth and a collection of stars mingle in a gala atmosphere drowned in the flashes of selfies. However, the outfits are black and the festivities contained, far from the extravagances of previous editions.

The sixth edition of the El Gouna Film Festival took place, from December 14 to 21, 2023, on a more sober note than usual, while further north, on the other side of the border, the war rages. Like the Austro-Egyptian actress Amira El Sayed, who wore the words “Stop the genocide, stop the occupation” written in black felt-tip pen on her forearms, or the American-Lebanese actress , Yasmine Al-Masri, who had written “Cease fire now” on the palm of her hand, the participants increased their support for the Palestinians. Organized since 2017, the event has been postponed twice this year, due to the war between Israel and Hamas.

At the last minute, the festival revised its programming to include the screening of ten Palestinian works. “The Palestinian people have brilliant films like any other country, and they want to live like any other people in the world,” declared, in the amphitheater where the opening ceremony took place, the extremely wealthy Egyptian businessman Samih Sawiris, sponsor of the event, and whose Orascom Development holding company is the main sponsor.

Austrian-Egyptian actress Amira El Sayed, during the opening ceremony, December 14, 2023.
Lebanese-American actress Yasmine Al-Masri on December 20, 2023, in the seaside resort of El Gouna, Egypt.

The tone is quickly set, with the screening of Bab el Chams ( The Gate of the Sun ). This long epic directed by Yousry Nasrallah, out of competition at Cannes in 2004, narrates fifty years of Palestinian exodus, since the “Nakba” (“catastrophe”, the forced exile of seven hundred and fifty thousand Palestinian Arabs at the time of the creation of Israel, in 1948, and the war that followed). “History repeats itself,” says the director before the screening. This film echoes what is happening today. » The public was also able to discover Bye Bye Tiberias (2023), by Franco-Algerian director Lina Soualem, a feature film in the running for the 2024 Oscars in the best international film category, which will represent Palestine.

Becoming the Arab equivalent of Locarno or Sundance

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