Cairo festival brings recognition to women film-makers

Festival aims to empower fe­male film-makers, who, critics say, do not get enough credit for their work.

A scene from The Newsroom, directed by Mikala Krogh. (Cairo International Women’s Film Festival)


2017/03/05 Issue: 96 Page: 22


The Arab Weekly
Ibrahim Ouf



Cairo - The Cairo International Women’s Film Festival aims to celebrate contri­butions by female film-makers, shed light on the problems women face and bring attention to the need for changing misconceptions about their role in society, festival organisers said.

“Women have been a main driv­ing force behind the progress in­ternational cinema has made so far,” festival Director Amal Ramsis said. “They are everywhere in the cinema industry: Behind cameras, writing scripts, directing films and in leading roles in front of the cam­eras.”

The festival, scheduled for March 4th-9th, was first organised in 2008 to showcase cinema inno­vations in the Arab region and in Latin America by women artists, directors and scriptwriters. The festival was the first artistic event to be solely focused on cinema cre­ated by women.

Through the previous nine fes­tivals, organisers presented the works of scores of female film-makers from both regions. Some of the films entered into the tenth edition document problems faced by women in different parts of the world.

The works of 53 female directors from 30 Arab, Latin American, Eu­ropean and Asian countries were on the schedule.

“These directors will have the rare chance of communicating di­rectly with the audiences after the shows,” Ramsis said. “They will be hearing viewers’ opinions bluntly and without any barriers.”

The event aims to empower fe­male film-makers, who, critics said, do not get enough credit for their work although many women have been instrumental to the pro­gress of international cinema.

“Mention any film, either here in the Arab region, or in other parts of the world, and I can assure you that a woman is behind its success, even as her name is little mentioned to­gether with the male stars,” said cinema critic and director Ena’am Mohamed Ali. “While their contri­butions to world cinema are un­deniable, women still struggle for equality with men.”

Films shown in the festival are diverse and cover a variety of top­ics. The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis, directed by Argentinian Andrea Testa, tells the story of a man who risks the safety of his family to rescue friends who are about to be kidnapped by the army.

Another film, The Newsroom, is the work of Danish director Mikala Krogh. It tells of a notorious Danish tabloid’s struggle to stay afloat in a changing world.

To spread the word about wom­en’s contributions to cinema, fes­tival organisers allow audiences to attend for free.

The festival is unique in the way movies are selected to win its awards. There is no jury but, at the end of every show, audiences are asked to vote on whether the film should be given the festival’s top award. The film receiving the larg­est number of audience votes is given the award.

Ramsis said by doing this, festi­val organisers empower viewers and allow them to make the cause of the film-makers their own.

“Audiences play the central role in the festival because they are the ones who decide the winning films,” Ramsis said. “This selection strategy is very effective in making the audiences attach themselves to the makers of the films.”

The festival administration also presents Arabic language subtitles to allow viewers to better under­stand the films and the issues they raise.

Nonetheless, experts said inter­national cinema has a very long way to go to get to the heart of the suffering of women around the world. They added that few films, even those made by women, dis­cuss the problems facing women, especially in conflict zones and ar­eas where violations against them go unreported and unpunished.

“Despite this, events like this fes­tival do a wonderful job bringing to light the work done by women and also the problems faced by them,” cinema critic Ali Abu Shadi said. “There are women directors, women scriptwriters and camer­awomen everywhere but little do they get credit for the work they do.”


Ibrahim Ouf is an Egyptian journalist based in Cairo.


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