Nelly Karim attends Opening Night

With “Big Dreams” as its motto, the 40th annual Cairo International Film Festival opened grandly in the Cairo Opera House’s Main Hall in the presence of Culture Minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Waly, Tourism Minister Rania el-Mashat, as well as a large gathering of filmmakers and celebrities from Egypt and around the world.

The opening ceremony began with a special program that featured a short film about the history of cinema, narrated by actor and singer Samir Sabry, followed by a special salute all CIFFs presidents including the current and youngest president to date, scenarist Mohamed Hefzy.

After Minister Abdel Dayem’s speech, the international competition’s jury took the stage. Actress Nelly Karim presented to renowned Russian director Pavel Lungin the first award of the evening in honor of this year’s festival celebration of  Russian cinema.  Lungin commented, “I give my thanks to the CIFF’s management for such an honor. You truly deserve to be a capital of world cinema.” 

Film Critic Klaus Eder with Pavel Lungin

Following, Leila Elwi who took the stage to present Peter Greenaway with the Faten Hamama Award. Greenaway said,  “I was fortunate to have made 60 films in 40 years, but cinema changes by time and we must look forward to make cinema that keeps up with today’s reality.”

Other awards and honors were presented to actor Hassan Hosny by director Dawood Abdel-Sayed, and composer Hisham Nazam who was presented with the Faten Hamama Excellence Award by fellow composer Rageh Dawood.  

The opening ceremony was concluded with the screening of “Green Book,” which received the People’s Choice Award at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.  “Green Book” was written by Brian Hayes Currie, directed by Peter Farrelly, and stars Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Lindan Cardinelli.

A wonderful start to the festival, that in the following days, honored actor Ralph Fiennes on his directorial debut in “The White Crow,” detailing the story of legendary Russian ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev’s defection to the West. In a special “In Conversation With” event, Fiennes elaborated on the film’s central theme of choice and how that is made with consequences –  leaving your home, your family and everything you’ve ever known behind you.  He also focused on his insistence on authenticity of language and location, and the importance of using real dancers as actors, to bring true life to the film. Fiennes is the 2018 recipient of the Faten Hamama Outstanding Achievement Award.

In Conversation With Ralph Fiennes

The evening ended with a spectacular reception in the garden of the American Embassy where the Chargé d’affaires introduced participants of the Global Media Makers, a program financed by the embassy supporting filmmakers throughout the Middle East with grants and internships in the Hollywood film industry. 

IEM’s Claude Brickell