KbenHania (1)

Source: Alibi Communications

Kaouther Ben Hania

Upcoming features by veteran Egyptian filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah and Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania are among 15 projects selected for the 7th edition of the Cairo Film Connection (CFC), aimed at finding partners for Arab works in development and in post-production.

The event is an integral part of the Cairo Industry Days programme of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), which is pushing on with plans to hold a live 42nd edition in November in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There were 105 project submissions from across 12 Arab countries to the CFC this year.

Fiction selection

Nasrallah will present The Legend Of Legend Of Zainab And Noah. It is his first feature film project as a director since Brooks, Meadows And Lovely Faces which premiered in Locarno in 2016. Few details have been released about the project as yet.

It is among seven fiction feature projects in the CFC selection. They also include I Can Hear Your Voice… Still by Egyptian director Sameh Alaa, whose short film I Am Afraid To Forget Your Face was selected for Cannes short film competition this year.

Another two fiction projects also hail from Egypt: Breakfast Lunch and Dinner, the debut feature of producer-filmmaker Mohamed Samir, whose producer credits include the late Mohamed Khan’s 2013 drama Factory Girl, and Snow White by Taghrid Abuelhassan.

The other fiction projects comprise Syrian director Amir Ali’s Passage, Lebanese director Ruba Atiyeh’s exploration of exile and disconnect Fog and Palestinian filmmaker Amira Diab’s Scheherazade Goes Silent.

There is one fiction feature project in post-production - The Alleys by Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour. It marks his directorial feature debut after taking producer and writer credits on Oscar-nominated Theeb.

Documentary selection 

Tunisia’s Ben Hania will participate with hybrid documentary Olfa’s Daughters. Her latest feature The Man Who Sold His Skin has just premiered in Venice’s Horizon’s section, winning its Syrian lead Yahya Mahayni the best actor award.

The new documentary follows a mother and her four daughters, two of whom followed their ISIS militant boyfriends to Libya and are now trapped there in a prison camp. 

Talking to Screen in Venice, Ben Hania said the production will re-tell their story through the real-life protagonists as well as actresses who will interview the former as if doing research for roles.

It is among four documentary projects in development due to be presented at CFC, alongside Moroccan director El Mahdi Lyoubi’s Flying Like A Bird, Jordanian filmmaker Rand Beiruty’s Tell Them About Us and Jordanian documentarian Widad Shafakoj’s Caesar.

Documentary projects in post-production include Palestinian filmmaker Alex Bakri’s The Last Projectionist, following the fate of a veteran projectionist in a cinema in the Palestinian city of Jenin, who finds his services are no longer required when an international humanitarian organisation launches a renovation project.

The other documentaries in post-production include Egyptian director Aya Tallah Yusuf’s Before The Final Picture and Belgian-Kurdish filmmaker Sahim Omar’s Iraq Invisible Beauty.

“We are proud that this year we have selected stories by directors with different backgrounds and cultures from across the Arab world, which has been one of our goals since the birth of Cairo Film Connection,” said CFC manager Meriame Deghedi.

CIFF chief Mohamed Hefzy noted CFC’s growing track record. He gave the example of Mayye Zayed’s documentary Lift Like A Girl, which is in official selection at Toronto this year and participated in the 5th edition of the CFC in 2018. He revealed it would also play in official selection at CIFF this year.

Hefzy added that the festival was “determined to continue supporting Arab cinema by shedding light on the young Arab filmmaking talent and their distinct projects,” in spite of the challenges faced by the film industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic.