Gouna heats up for movie fest

gouna film festival

Late breaking news:

The public viewing screen for the opening (22nd of September) and the finale (29th of September) is being moved from the entrance of the New Marina Piazza to Downtown next to Tamr Henna, which apparently is a large restaurant.

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The weather is stunningly beautiful here in Gouna, though very dry and hot. You have to avoid the sun much of the day, and drink a lot of bottled water.

Don’t know where Gouna is?

It’s a posh Egyptian resort town on the Red Sea, not too far away from Hurghada. The town is currently preparing to launch its first-ever film festival on Friday.

Yesterday, I decided to see the venue where the Opening Feature will be screened on Friday at 8PM.

It was a semi difficult to find, but when I got close to the area, I saw quite a few Egyptian workers lugging heavy stuff around.

I couldn’t quite make out where the theater was, though, so I asked one of them, and he answered ta’ala, which means come, or follow me, in Arabic.

Entering behind him through makeshift plywood entrance, I suddenly was in a smallish open theater that was being built from scratch.

The intensity of the activity under the blazing, pitiless sun was impressive.

In case you plan on going, this theater is by the New Marina.
You just have to walk behind the North side buildings facing the water, go through a large open courtyard, pass under some Moorish arches at the far end of this plaza, and you’ll find it.

I’m pretty sure there’ll be signage showing the various locations for all the GFF venues, but I could not find any directions in the program guide I picked up. I was told by the Gouna tourist office that one is at a hotel downtown, and another at the Berlin Technical College.  I hope they have shuttle service to take us from venue to venue!

The GFF program guide is being handed out everywhere to the public, such as at local supermarkets. Impressive list of sponsors, I must say, and Variety seems to be involved at some level.

Sheikh Jackson will kick off the festival.

It’s about a religious Egyptian who develops a fixation on MJ. MJ. Not sure where this movie is going to go with MJ’s troubled backstory, but I’m sure it’ll be an enjoyable watch. The film recently had a good reception at the Toronto Film Festival.

In addition to Sheikh Jackson, GFF has assembled an,eclectic lineup of feature films, documentaries, and shorts, most of which, no doubt, resonate in some way with the festival’s opaquely positive theme: Cinema for Humanity.

Other films being screened during GFF include Finland’s The Other Side of Hope, directed by Ari Kaurismaki, which has two intersecting story lines: a young Syrian refugee who has lost everything, and a middle-aged salesman who buys an unprofitable restaurant on a back street of Helsinki.

A few other films caught my eye.

Tamer Ashry’s Photocopy is an Egyptian film that is also about an older man who goes a little off the deep end late in life. The film is a portrait of the owner of a photocopy joint in Cairo who develops a strange obsession with dinosaurs. I love the idea! This film too already screened successfully overseas earlier this year.

There’s also a short called Lucky, directed by John Carroll Lynch, which appears to star the late Harry Dean Stanton (his name was not listed in the program, but the promo shot looked just like him). I saw Harry give a risqué talk at the Tribeca Film Festival maybe 8 years ago, and I was saddened to hear of his recent passing.

GFF will close with Human Flow, a German documentary helmed  by Chinese artist-in-exile Ai Wiwei, a no doubt ennobling film that offers a visual expression of the migration crisis currently being experienced around the world.

Well, I’m not going to list all the program highlights — you’ll have to read my reviews to know which turn out to be my faves. Alas, I was disappointed that the Last Days of the City, with Khalid Abdalla, was not chosen to be screened here.

These reviews will be published in Gouna News over the coming week or so, so stay tuned for more news from beautiful Gouna, where life is as it should be, and the stars of indie world cinema will soon be shining brightly!

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