Arts & Culture

Glitz and Glamour: Cairo International Film Festival Keeping Strong 46 Years Later

Glitz and Glamour: Cairo International Film Festival Keeping Strong 46 Years Later

Photo Credit: Ahram Digital Archive

For nearly five decades, the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) has been considered Egypt’s window to the wonders of cinema. Thousands of people from all over the world come to Cairo – in glittering ballgowns and sharp-looking suits – to celebrate the filmmaking industry.

Egypt has long been an epicenter of art, and has celebrated cinema since the introduction of the art of filmmaking in 1896. With this grand history as a backdrop, CIFF was first launched in 1976 by the Egyptian writer and head of the Egyptian Cinema Critics Association Kamal El Mallakh, to highlight the role of Egypt in the global world, and bridge cultural gaps.

Photo Credit: CIFF

Considered one of the longest-running cultural events of its kind in the MENA region, CIFF rose to become one of the 15 festivals that are accorded the “A” status by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. It is also ranked among the top 11 film festivals across the globe, together with the Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Montreal Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, and others.

Held annually at the Cairo Opera House, CIFF not only champions new and diverse filmmakers, but also reminds audiences of the importance of equality and representation in the cinema industry.

The debut

In its first edition, over 33 countries participated in CIFF, with 100 films screened from countries all over the world, including Japan, Italy, Greece, India, Iran, Algeria, and Turkey. The United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also participated with three short documentaries.

The festival’s jury featured a wide range of intellectuals and artists, including Pakistani poet and literary figure Fayez Ahmad and renowned Egyptian director Shadi Abdel Salam.

Film screenings were held at different places in Cairo, including morning screenings at the Sheraton hotel, evening screenings at the Hilton hotel, public screenings at Qasr Al-Nil, Lido, and Ramses cinemas, and a selection of film screenings were held at Gezira Sporting Club.

The prize for the first edition was ‘Hathour, the Ancient Egyptian Goddess of Beauty,’ read an Ahram newspaper article in 1976.

Some of the Egyptian films selected in the main competition were Naguib Mahfouz’s Al Mozneboun (Guilty Ones, 1976) and Sana Oula Hob (First Grade Love, 1976).

To promote the festival, ticket prices to the cinema were reduced from 180 piasters to 25 piasters.

Photo Credit: Ahram Digital Archive

The event commenced on 17 August 1976 and the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony was El-Malakh, followed by an mesmerizing concert by Abdel-Halim Hafez, Shadia, and Samir Al-Eskandarani. The closing ceremony featured a stellar performance by Samir Sabri and Samir Al- Eskandarani.

The best actor award was given to Emad Hamdy for his role in Al-Mozneboun, best actress to German actress L. Carstern for her role in Lina Braake, and the best director award was given to Bernhard Sinkel for Lina Braake.

Special awards were given to Iranian directors of photography Mehrdad Fakhimi and Firooz Malekzadeh for their film Stranger and the Fog (1976), while the golden prize for best short film went to Iranian film Wooden Pistols (1975) directed by Shapur Gharib. Honorary awards went to Italian actress Claudia Cardinally and Italian director Alberto Lattuada.

This November will see the festival’s 44th edition: another chance to celebrate the cinema industry in a place that never forgot its resonance.

Initiating an Egyptian-Australian dialogue at the Chau Chak Wing Museum
Review: Shahid VIP’s ‘Magnoona Beek’ is a Blend of Comedy and Tragedy

Subscribe to our newsletter

Arts & Culture

Farah Rafik is a graduate from the American University in Cairo (AUC) with a dual degree in Multimedia Journalism and Political Science. After being an active participant in Model United Nation (MUN) conferences both locally and internationally, Farah discovered her love for writing. When she isn’t writing about Arts & Culture for Egyptian Streets, she is busy watching films and shows to review. Writing isn’t completed without a coffee or an iced matcha latte in hand—that she regularly spills. She occasionally challenges herself in reading challenges on Goodreads, and can easily read a book a day.

More in Arts & Culture

Sunken Sanctuary of Aphrodite and Temple of Amun Discovered in Egypt

Shereif Barakat20 September 2023

Egypt’s Historic Suleiman Pasha Mosque Reopens After Five-Year Restoration

Muhammed Kotb20 September 2023

El Gouna Film Festival 2023: Shining Light on Sudanese Cinema

Farah Rafik20 September 2023

Grand Egyptian Museum is to Host the Premiere of “Tutankhamun — The Immersive Exhibition” in November

Farah Rafik18 September 2023

The Lighthouse Cards: The Egyptian Card Game Sparking Soulful Connections

Farah Rafik18 September 2023

Heliopolis Synagogue Holds Cairo’s First Jewish New Year Celebration in 70 Years

Farah Rafik16 September 2023

Rivo’s Lyricism: Five Passages from the Popular Series that Speak Volumes in Simplicity

Farah Aly14 September 2023

4 True Crime Podcasts by Arab Creators to Listen to

Farah Rafik10 September 2023