El Gouna Film Festival co-founder Samih Sawiris receives an interview with Xinhua during the El Gouna Film Festival in Hurghada, Egypt on Sept. 23, 2017. (Xinhua/Zhao Dingzhe)
by Xinhua writer Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- The ongoing first edition of El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) is one of the means to revive Egypt's leading role in the Middle East cinema industry and to show the world the country's filmmaking capabilities, said Egyptian business tycoon and GFF co-founder Samih Sawiris in an interview with Xinhua.
Sawiris is the founder of the Red Sea town of El Gouna north of world famous Hurghada resort city, which hosts the GFF co-founded by him and his brother Naguib Sawiris.
"The cinema is among the oldest industries that entered Egypt, at the same time when Hollywood started its black-and-white cinema. So, my brother and I have always had the desire to revive such a heritage and return Egypt to its filmmaking leading role in the Middle East," Sawiris said.
Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk poses for photos on the red carpet of the El Gouna Film Festival in Hurghada, Egypt on Sept. 22, 2017. (Xinhua/Zhao Dingzhe)
Scheduled for Sept. 22-29, the newly-born gala screens about 69 films from around 40 countries, including 16 feature films, 18 short films and 12 long documentaries, in addition to 19 films outside the official competition and four in a special program.
"The GFF is a means to highlight to the world Egypt's filmmaking capabilities, remind the world of Egypt's cinema history and introduce to the world El Gouna resort town that hosts such a gala," the Egyptian billionaire told Xinhua, adding that "it's like hitting several birds with one stone."
The new festival gathers Egyptian, Arab and international stars and moviemakers including top Egyptian comedian Adel Imam, veteran Egyptian actress Yousra, Arab stars Hend Sabry and Hiam Abbass and Hollywood stars Forest Whitaker and Dylan McDermott, besides dozens of others.
Egyptian actor Ahmed El Fishawy poses for photos on the red carpet of the El Gouna Film Festival in Hurghada, Egypt on Sept. 22, 2017. (Xinhua/Zhao Dingzhe)
Although mainly funded by private sector sponsors, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism also supported the event due to its assistance in refreshing the country's tourism sector that has been ailing over the past few years.
Some world superstars and filmmakers think twice about visiting Egypt due to what they hear about the country's security conditions after going through political stability followed by a wave of terrorist activities over the past few years.
"Such a festival shows the world that Egypt is safe, especially when the audience see international superstars and filmmakers enjoy safety and security at El Gouna, which helps removing such a misconception with the media," the GFF main sponsor said.
Egyptian actor Khaled El Nabawy poses for photos on the red carpet of the El Gouna Film Festival in Hurghada, Egypt on Sept. 22, 2017. (Xinhua/Zhao Dingzhe)
He described the circulation of such a reputation about Egypt's security conditions as "baseless," citing that Britain itself went through a dozen of terrorist attacks within one year.
A big challenge that has faced the GFF is that the two-decade-old resort town did not have theaters before three cinemas have been specially built for the festival.
"We will keep the cinemas after the GFF for they are a large investment in the fast-expanding El Gouna town where 25,000 people live besides visitors and tourists," Sawiris told Xinhua, expecting them to attract audience from both El Gouna and nearby Hurghada.
The business mogul said that El Gouna is a promising venue for future joint investments with Chinese firms, particularly in the tourism and hotel industries, noting he has recently been in a trip to China that included Beijing, Shanghai and Xuzhou to help in the planning for the establishment of some resort cities there.
"China is a great country with long history and it has come a long way in development. We would like to learn from their expertise and we are currently studying a number of projects with Chinese companies," Sawiris told Xinhua.