Thursday, 3 November 2011

Winds of Spring: New Egyptian Cinema + Asia Pacific Screen Awards Winners Circle

Cairo 678
Cairo 678

From 8 to 18 December, ACMI presents Winds of Spring: New Egyptian Cinema, a program spotlighting a vibrant and politically charged cinematic scene that foreshadowed the revolutionary events of Tahrir Square. With Egypt a regular contributor to films in competition for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, ACMI will also present the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Winners Circle (11-18 December), showcasing some of the most acclaimed new films from the region.

From celebrated auteur Yousry Nasrallah comes Scheherazade Tell Me a Story (Ehky ya Scheherazade) (2009). An absorbing portrait of women in modern Egypt, the film tells the story of Hebba (Mona Zakki), a popular television host whose comfortable middle-class existence is threatened when politics collides with her marriage. Convinced by her husband to tone down the political content of her show in order to help him secure a promotion at his state-run work place, Hebba begins covering issues related to love and womanhood but in the process unravels an even more potent breeding ground for political dissent.

Born in Egypt, Yousry Nasrallah studied economics and politics before commencing a career as a journalist in Lebanon. He got his start in the film industry as a director's assistant working with filmmakers Volker Schlöndorff and Youssef Chahine. Making his directorial debut in 1987 with Summer Thefts (1987), Nasrallah is widely regarded as one of the key filmmakers to revive Egyptian cinema in the 80s. In 1999, he won the Special Jury Prize at the Locarno Film Festival for his film El Medina, and in 2004 was invited to screen The Gate of the Sun (Bab El Chams) in Official Selection (out of competition) at the Cannes Film Festival.

In Mohamed Diab's award-winning drama, Cairo 678 (2010), three women from varied socio-economic backgrounds are drawn together as they battle against ongoing sexual harassment in the sprawling metropolis of Cairo. Facing their individual situations in very personal ways, their behaviour generates contrasting reactions from the men closest to them.

Born in Ismailia (east of Cairo), Mohamed Diab is one of Egypt's most well known screen-writers. He studied commerce before enrolling in screen-writing at the New York Film Academy in 2005. Since then he has produced the screenplays for five films: Real Dreams (Ahlam Hakekeya) (2007), The Island (El Gezira) (2007), The Replacement (Badal Faed) (2009), Congratulations (Alf Mabrouk) (2009) - co-written with his brother Khaled Diab - and Cairo 678.

In director Ahmad Abdalla's latest film, Microphone (2010), a young man named Khaled returns to Egypt after spending many years abroad. Battling feelings of disconnection and alienation, Khaled begins exploring his home town of Alexandria as an outsider and in the process discovers an underground creative scene populated by graffiti artists, musicians and filmmakers. The local authorities are not impressed with this activity but Khaled finds the spirit of subversion is alive and well in Alexandria.

Hailing from Cairo, Ahmad Abdalla studied classical music in the 90s before starting work as a film editor in 1999. Ten years later, he directed his first feature film Heliopis. Microphone, his second feature film, received several awards including Best Arabic Language Film at the Cairo International Film Festival and the Golden Tulip at the Instanbul International Film Festival (2011).

Shot guerillia style on the streets of Egypt's capital only a year before the revolutionary events of the Arab Spring, Cairo Exit (2010) is the second feature film from Hesham Issawi. Tarek, a young Muslim, intends to flee Egypt on an illegal boat headed for Italy but life takes an unexpected turn when his Christian girlfriend, Amal, falls pregnant. Feeling the pressure of their inter-religious relationship, Tarek demands that his girlfriend leave Egypt with him or have an abortion, and Amal must make the difficult decision to stay with her family in the slums or follow her lover.

Moving from Egypt to the United States in 1990, Hesham Issawi graduated from film school at Columbia College (Chicago) in 1996. He worked at local television stations in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles to work as a freelance film editor. Issawi's short film, The Interrogation (2002), was awarded Best Creative Short Film at the New York Film Festival, while his work T for Terrorist (2003) won the Best Short Film award at the Boston and San Francisco Film Festivals. His debut feature film, American East, was completed in 2007.

Alongside Winds of Spring: New Egyptian Cinema, ACMI also presents the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Winners Circle from 11 to 18 December. Showcasing the most acclaimed and influential new works from the Asia Pacific region - which includes films from Egypt to the Cook Islands to Russia to New Zealand - the winners of the fourth annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards will not be announced until 24 November, with a surprise selection of these winning films to be screened at ACMI.

ACMI Film Programmer Kristy Matheson says, "The Asia Pacific Screen Awards are an exciting feature on Australia's cultural calendar. With the Winners Circle program screening alongside Winds of Spring, audiences have a rare opportunity to see some truly energetic and exciting cinematic discoveries from the Asia Pacific region, of which Egypt is a remarkable contributor."

Winds of Spring: New Egyptian Cinema screens 8-18 December at ACMI in Melbourne with the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Winners Circle screening 11-18 December. For more information please visit

Further information

Frances Mariani
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2475 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 655

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