Ahmed Shawky • Artist consultant, Aswan International Women’s Film Festival

– Abbiamo parlato con il nuovo consulente aquatico del festival egiziano riguardo al cinema diretto slab donne e all’importanza dell’Europa per cet evento

This article is available in English.

Cineuropa spoke with the new artistic adviser of the Aswan International Women’s Film Festival (AWIFF), Ahmed Shawkiwho previously worked for the Cairo International Film Festival. The sixth edition of the event, which presents films made by women or about women, had several European productions and co-productions on the programme. France Good mother [+leggi anche:
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intervista: Hafsia Herzi
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by Hafia Herzi won the award for best film of the festival, while secret name [+leggi anche:
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intervista: Aurélia Georges
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by Aurelia Georges, Farha [+leggi anche:
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by Darin J SalIa m and Lingui, The Sacred Bonds [+leggi anche:
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intervista: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Acho…
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by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun also have gongs. The festival took place from February 23 to 28.

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Cineeuropa: How did you become the artistic director of the Aswan International Women’s Film Festival?
Ahmed Shawki:
My specific title is artistic adviser, not director, and that’s what I asked for. The festival had already had five editions, and it was not until the third that it had a female artistic director – Hala Galal. I had been following the festival since its inception, and I couldn’t accept the idea that AWIFF had an all-male leadership. When I said that at the festival, they told me they understood, but only a few people do senior programming work in the area, and they’re mostly men. We had the idea of ​​having an artistic group, composed mainly of women, who have expertise in different professions related to cinema, but who had hardly worked as programmers. Thus, the main objective is to train a new generation of programmers. AWIFF isn’t a huge festival: we only have 15 feature films and 32 short films, but it’s a great place to learn how the workflow is, how to communicate with distributors, schedule movies, etc I am proud of my team, made up of Dina El Eleimy (a producer and director), Mariam Hamdi (academic who teaches cinema at the American University in Cairo), Mennatallah Ebaid (critic, writer and translator) and Mariam Al-Ferjani (actress and director). The latter played in Beauty and the dogs [+leggi anche:
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and directed a short film in the “Tunisia Factory” anthology, both presented at Cannes a few years ago.

Movies done by women Where on women – it’s a vast Category. Did you have any additional criteria to allow you to choose the films?
We asked ourselves: “Is the film relevant for the people of Aswan? Because we are aiming for films for a local audience. Each of us has different tastes, and although the more sophisticated abstract films we watch may be screened at internationally oriented festivals, such as El Gouna or Cairo, we remember that we program for local audiences. We are aware of sensitive content. We do not apply self-censorship; we keep in mind the atmosphere and traditions of Aswan, a quiet city in southern Egypt. We’re pushing the envelope a bit when it comes to film topics and content, rather than shocking audiences.

I would like to add that the festival is organized by an NGO which also carries out other activities: it organizes 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 for young people in Aswan who dream of becoming filmmakers.

So your to reign thumb it’s baby steps, instead of shock therapy?
My experience working in culture in Egypt and the Arab region is that “shock” never works. This can only cause problems, sabotage your work, and cause the media and government institutions to forget about all the positive things about discussing a little movie you decide to shock your audience with.

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

European support has its pros and cons. European support for films from the Third World is a great help for many filmmakers: almost all Egyptian and Arab filmmakers try to make edgy films that do not appeal to the commercial industry in their region. Without European organisations, their films would not exist. On the other hand, the regular availability of these support programs somehow shapes the way filmmakers think about and select their ideas, depending on whether they will apply to a funding program or an institution. When I’m in Cannes, Berlin or another major European festival, and I go to see a French or German film, I always have open expectations. It can be a romance, science fiction, anything, whereas when I go to see a Third World film, in 90% of cases, it will be linked to a political or social issue because these stories find their way to the north. It gives me a slightly bitter aftertaste. In a way, there is a distinction between filmmakers on both sides: Europeans are free to express themselves as they wish, whereas we are filmmakers and anthropologists. It’s like taking a drug that has side effects.