The main awards at this year’s Cairo International Film Festival, which ran from to November 10-20, were shared by two European fables of spiritual growth and redemption.
Finnish director Klaus Haro’s Letters To Father Jacob lifted the Golden Pyramid prize for best film and the best screenplay award, while Mona Acheche’s The Hedgehog – based on the bestselling French novel The Elegance Of The Hedgehog – picked up the best director and special jury prizes.
The best actor award was split ex aequo between local talent Fathy Abdel Wahib, star of Egyptian family epic Nile Birds, and Indian actor Subrat Dutti for his role in Jai Tank’s motivational melodrama Madholal Keep Walking.
Polish actress Karolina Piechota picked up the best actress prize for her performance in Maclej Pieprzyka’s Silesia-set, non-linear youth tale Splinters.
Cherien Dabis’s Palestinian drama of displacement won the best Arab feature award, while the best digitalfFilm award – new for this edition of the festival – went to low-budget Filipino drama The Rapture of Fe.
Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni dedicated the 33rd Cairo festival to the memory of Shadi Abdel Salam, the late Egyptian auteur whose newly-restored 1969 masterpiece The Mummy (a.k.a. The Night Of Counting The Years) provided one of the festivals most memorable moments when it was screened in front of the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza.
This year’s edition of the long-running event honoured Indian cinema with a 19-film round-up of recent films from inside and outside the Bollywood production machine, kicking off with Kabir Khan’s glossy 9/11 drama New York, which opened the festival. Other sidebars included a focus on contemporary Algerian cinema.
Samuel L Jackson, Salma Hayek and Lucy Liu flew in to give the festival its traditional injection of Hollywood glamour. The film market was still in low-key mode, but festival president Ezzat Abu-Ouf has announced that he intends to relaunch it in 2010 in co-operation with international film market professionals.