The fourth edition of the El Gouna Film Festival started off on Friday at ElGouna, the Red Sea resort.Many Egyptian players and actors were present on the opening night. The festival that lasted a week screened 65 films, 11 world premieres, features multiple panels, and workshops. Organizing an event of that magnitude and glam while encouraging social distancing forced them to cut in half attendance at the outdoor and indoor venues.
GFF’s director Intishal al Timimi revealed that 20 participants to the festival were prevented from flying as they tested positive for Covid-19. El Gouna is among the leading festivals in the Middle East. The festival is marked by fashion and film and is one of the most star-packed events throughout Egypt and the larger Middle East. Among the region’s top artists, the international film community, star-filled red carpet showed up for the opening ceremony. The week will be marked by panel discussions and film screenings.
The festival commenced with a glamorous red carpet marked by gowns designed by top talented designers Deana Shaaban, Yasmin Mansour, Maison Yeya, and Elie Saab. The festival empowers young designers and smaller brands with a chance to get exposure to a global audience and have their names put alongside other film stars on the world stage.
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You cannot have a conversation about films without mentioning fashion. Both go hand in hand and the El Gouna Film festival confirms this. Designers greatly benefit from social media and the media buzz around the festival which is great for anyone who doesn’t have a large marketing budget. The red carpet was filled with top Middle East talent including Nicolas Mouawad, Youssef Yousra, Huda El Mufti, Amina Khalil, Nesreen Tafesh, and Stephanie Saliba.
The opening ceremony was marked by a performance from Lebanese singer Ramy Ayach who entered the auditorium from the back and made her way to the aisle singing. Onsi Abou Seif, the Egyptian set designer got awarded the Career Achievement Award which was dedicated to Shady Abdel-Salam (a filmmaker). This year will feature a remembrance slideshow for international actors who passed away.
2020 has not been a good year for cinema, a point noted by festival director Intishal Al Timimi who talked about the hardships faced by the industry. Awards were given to Gerard Depardieu (French actor) and Saïd Taghmaoui (French-American actor) who won the Omar Sharif Award.
This year’s GFF festival is special as the country is banking on the exposure to boost the revival of its tourism sector. The sector has suffered badly from the Covid-19 pandemic. It will run from Oct. 23-31 at El Gouna the luxurious Red Sea resort town. The slogan this year will be “The Culture of Dreams” which focuses on the cultural diversity of the region.
This international event will screen 65 films of which 11 are world premieres. According to the owner of the resort, some of his team were at the Venice Film Festival and are fully aware of how to safely hold the event. He pointed out the health and safety of those taking part as his main priority.
In between the event, 90 mins will go to sterilizing the hallways while the red carpet area was increased by 30 meters. In addition, no space will exceed 50% of its occupant capacity. Egypt’s tourism revenues hit US$13 billion in 2019 the highest in history according to figures from the country’s central bank.
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Nevertheless, the sector has been hard hit by the pandemic. The number of international tourism arrivals has never been this bad since the start of the year. Air traffic resumed at the beginning of July but the numbers are yet to approach what is deemed as normal. Egypt has opened archaeological sites, hotels, and museums after four months of closing down.
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El Gouna Film Festival opens its doors in Egypt
El Gouna, Hurghada, Red Sea Governorate, Egypt