President of Egypt's Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) Mohamed Hefzy speaks during an interview with Xinhua in Cairo, Egypt, on Nov. 29, 2018. Mohamed Hefzy said on Thursday that the CIFF plans to screen more Chinese films next year for the Egyptian audience and local Chinese community. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)
by Ahmed Shafiq
CAIRO, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- President of Egypt's Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) Mohammed Hefzy said on Thursday that the CIFF plans to screen more Chinese films next year for the Egyptian audience and local Chinese community.
"Maybe this year Chinese movies are under-represented, but next year we will definitely start early and try to find a way to program more Chinese films," Hefzy, who is also a renowned film producer, told Xinhua in an interview.
On Monday, several Chinese movies were screened during "The Chinese Films Night," which was organized by the CIFF.
The films deal with contemporary Chinese national themes, with "The Grand Song" screened as the first movie after the inauguration ceremony of the night.
Hefzy, appointed as the president of CIFF earlier this year, said he just held a meeting with a delegation from the Shanghai Film Festival.
"We do plan to collaborate more and more and to exchange ideas on programming and also to recommend films for Shanghai Film Festival," Hefzy revealed.
The 40th edition of the CIFF opened on Nov. 20 and closed on Thursday in Cairo, featuring more than 160 films from 60 countries, including 16 world premieres.
The festival's Main Competition jury committee is headed by prominent Danish film director Bille August who is among the very few directors who have received the Palme d'Or award twice at the Cannes Film Festival.
A Twelve-Year Night, Uruguay's candidate for the foreign-language Oscar, won the highest award in the festival, the Golden Pyramid.
Meanwhile, the CIFF president said Tiktok, a Chinese social media platform, is one of the sponsors of the festival.
"They have been very generous ... they are also giving the Best Arab Film prize. Hopefully this will be the start of a long collaboration," Hefzy noted.
The Best Arab Film award is a new addition to the CIFF with a prize of 15,000 U.S. dollars.
During the 38th edition of the CIFF two years ago, China was the guest of honor of the oldest film festival in the Middle East region.
Chinese participation came during the Chinese-Egyptian Culture Year which was launched in 2016 to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Egypt-China diplomatic relations.
That year, films made by Chinese directors including Jia Zhangke, who received the festival's Excellence Award, Zhang Yimou, and Diao Yinan were also screened during the festival.
Hefzy, meanwhile, said his team tried this edition to improve the program so it is not just about getting a good film, but also getting a good film that is new.
"A lot of films are actually shown in the Middle East for the first time, some of them are shown internationally for the first time," Hefzy said, adding that festivals these days are collecting films very early, "so sometimes we go and invite the film before the festival premiers."
There is also a chance to discuss the film and listen to debates, he pointed out.
Speaking about Cairo Industry Days, a new section of the CIFF, Hefzy said it is one of the most important things that has happened in this edition.
The section aims at providing its participants with important opportunities for discussions, meetings, training and workshops in various areas of the industry.
"For me, it is going to help the local community," Hefzy stressed.
The CIFF president said the festival's administration did not try to get celebrities that have nothing to do with the films screened, noting that he wanted to get celebrities who have films shown at the festival.
"When you invite a film like the White Crow by Ralph Fiennes, you hope Ralph Fiennes will represent the film, and this is what really happened. We also gave him a tribute," he said.
In the meantime, Hefzy said the festival is a good opportunity for promoting tourism and attracting investment to Egypt which has been badly hit by the political and security turmoil in the past few years.
"I hope that people would know that Egypt is a place worth coming to when they see the world celebrities in safety in Cairo," Hefzy said.