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"Cuando estoy en un gran festival europeo y voy a ver una película francesa o alemana, nunca sé lo que me puedo esperar"

Informe de industria: Europa y el resto del mundo

Ahmed Shawky • Consejero artístico, Festival Internacional de Cine de Mujeres de Asuán

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Hablamos con el nuevo consejero artístico del certamen egipcio sobre el cine hecho por mujeres y la relevancia de Europa en el festival

Ahmed Shawky • Consejero artístico, Festival Internacional de Cine de Mujeres de Asuán

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Cineuropa chatted to the newly appointed artistic advisor to the Aswan International Women Film Festival (AWIFF), Ahmed Shawky, who previously worked for the Cairo International Film Festival. The sixth edition of the event, which presents films made by women or about women, boasted several European productions and co-productions in the programme. France’s Good Mother [+lee también:
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entrevista: Hafsia Herzi
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by Hafsia Herzi won the festival’s Best Film Award, while Secret Name [+lee también:
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entrevista: Aurélia Georges
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by Aurélia Georges, Farha [+lee también:
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by Darin J Sallam and Lingui, The Sacred Bonds [+lee también:
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entrevista: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Acho…
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by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun also got gongs. The festival unspooled from 23-28 February.

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Cineuropa: How did you become the artistic director of the Aswan International Women Film Festival?
Ahmed Shawky:
My precise title is the artistic advisor, not a director, and that’s what I asked for. The festival had already had five editions, and only during the third one did it have a female artistic director – Hala Galal. I had been following the festival since its beginnings, and I couldn't accept the idea of the AWIFF having management composed totally of men. When I said this to the festival, they said they understood, but only a few people do a senior programming job in the region, and they're mostly men. We came up with the idea of having an artistic group, comprising mostly women, who have expertise in different film-related professions, but they had barely worked as programmers at all. So, the main purpose is to train a new generation of programmers. The AWIFF is not a huge festival: we only have 15 feature films and 32 shorts, but it's a nice place to learn how the workflow goes, how to communicate with distributors, programme films and so on. I am proud of my team, composed of Dina El Eleimy (a producer and director), Mariam Hamdy (an academic who teaches film at the American University in Cairo), Mennatallah Ebaid (a critic, writer and translator) and Mariam Al Ferjani (an actress and director). The latter starred in Beauty and the Dogs [+lee también:
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entrevista: Kaouther Ben Hania
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and directed a short in the “Tunisia Factory” anthology, both of which were shown at Cannes a few years ago.

Films made by women or about women – that’s a vast category. Did you have any additional criteria to enable you to choose the movies?
We asked ourselves: “Is the film relevant to the people of Aswan?” Because we are targeting films for a local audience. Each of us has different tastes, and while the more sophisticated, abstract films we watch could screen at festivals with an international bent, like El Gouna or Cairo, we remember that we are programming for the local audience. We are conscious about sensitive content. We don't apply self-censorship; we bear in mind the atmosphere and the traditions of Aswan – a calm city in southern Egypt. We are pushing the boundaries slightly when it comes to the films’ subjects and content, instead of shocking the audience.

I'd like to add that the festival is organised by an NGO that conducts other activities as well: it organises a women’s film forum, which is the most successful part of the festival because it engages the local community. There are also workshops and training sessions for young people from Aswan who dream of becoming filmmakers.

So your rule of thumb is baby steps, instead of shock therapy?
My experience of working in the culture field in Egypt and in the Arab region is that “shock” never works. It can only cause problems, sabotage your work, and make the media and governmental institutions forget everything positive while discussing a tiny film you decide to shock your audience with.

How does Europe fit in here?
We have a prize given out by the European Union for films from either EU member states or their Mediterranean neighbours. Two of the movies in this competition are Farha from Jordan and Lingui, The Sacred Bonds from Chad. They were co-funded by EU countries: Germany, France, Sweden and Belgium.

European support has its pros and cons. European backing for films coming from the Third World is a huge help for many filmmakers: almost all Egyptian and Arab filmmakers are trying to make edgy films that don't appeal to the commercial industry in their region. Without European organisations, their movies wouldn't happen. On the other hand, having these support programmes available on a regular basis somehow moulds the way filmmakers think and select their ideas, based on whether they will be applying to a funding programme or an institution. When I am at Cannes, Berlin or another big European festival, and I go to watch a French or a German film, I always have open expectations. It could be a romance, a science fiction, anything, whereas when I go to watch a film from the Third World, in 90% of the cases, it will be related to a political or social issue because these stories find their way up north. It gives me a slightly bitter aftertaste. Somehow, there is a distinction between filmmakers on both sides: Europeans are free to express themselves the way they want to, while we are filmmakers and anthropologists.It's like taking a medication that has side effects.

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