CAIRO - 5 December 2020: Cairo International Film Festival organized a masterclass by Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, where he talked about his career and his journey from independent Palestinian films to a major Hollywood production.
The masterclass was moderated by famed Egyptian director Marwan Hamed.
Abu Assad is considered one of the most famous Arab filmmakers after making films that were carrying hyper-local issues but were easily made for the international audience to comprehend and relate to.
On how he entered the field of filmmaking, Abu Assad said that he did not study filmmaking but rather engineering.
His cinematic career started when he worked as an assistant director in the early 1990s and then made several short films.
Abu-Assad’s first feature film was made in the
He later topped this up with three other films: a feature and two documentaries.
In 2005, he directed his famed masterpiece Paradise Now’, a film which won the Golden Globes for Best Foreign Film.
The film arguably opened the doors for Abu-Assad as well as several other contemporary directors to showcase their films in the west.
This was followed by a journey in Hollywood as he directed The Courier (2012), a film that he considers to be a b-movie, a project he made for commercial reasons. His fame however reached a much higher level after his film Omar (2013). According to Abu-Assad, what influenced him to make Omar was his bad experience with The Courier. “I wanted to do a film that was personal and intimate.”
“For me cinema started with Egyptian cinema” Abu Assad said.
Abu Assad admitted that the good director is the one who can uses all what with him and against him as well.
“ What the director needs from the actor/actress is to have credible feelings” Abu Assad added.
The Oscar nominated director said that any artificial thing will fail because it is lifeless and has no human pulse.
“For me the Egyptian movie “ Sarsara Fauk el Nile” ( Chitchat on the Nile) should have been nominated to Oscars” Abu Assad said.
Omar was nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. This success brought a huge opportunity for Abu-Assad to direct a major Hollywood film The Mountain Between Us, starring Kate Winslet and Idris Alba. Regarding his experience in working with Winslet, Abu- Assad described her as “a very professional actress and committed person. She was the first one to arrive at the set and always respected my instructions as a director.”
When speaking about the difference between working in Hollywood and working in the filmmaking scene in the Middle
East, Abu-Assad said that Hollywood studios allow him limited creative space to alter or intervene with the script, hence limiting his role to directing only. However, “on location in the Middle East, I have a total freedom in directing and working with the actors as well as preparing the scenes,” he said.
Abu-Assad considers acting to be the most important element in making a film, after the script. He carefully chooses the actors and holds several rehearsals with them, but nevertheless he leaves the space for actors to improvise.
The director also tackled the topic of his collaboration with the film editors, saying, “I consider the editor to be the second director of the film. A film editor is not just a person who clicks on the buttons. He must have an artistic space in order to add value to the film.”
Asked about his ability to make a film with a forty million dollars budget or a one million dollars budget, he said that “being Palestinian taught me to adapt to what is offered.” He cited the example of bad treatment when he leaves the Israeli airport. On the other hand, he is treated with a lot of respect when he arrives to another foreign country.
In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, CIFF has changed its date to take place from December 2-10.
The 42nd edition opening ceremony was held under strict WHO-approved precautionary measures taken by the Egyptian government.
Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is one of the oldest cultural events in Africa and the Middle East, and is one of the 15 festivals in Africa and the Middle East to be accorded category “A” status by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) in Paris.
CIFF granted the Golden Pyramid to veteran screen writer Waheed Hamed and Faten Hamam Award to Egyptian superstar Mona Zaki.
CIFF granted veteran writer Christopher Hampton the Lifetime Acheivment Award.
Hefzy said that the 42nd edition houses 84 films.
20 films will have their world premiere at Cairo Film Festival”.
CIFF this year celebrates the passage of a century on Federico Fellini birth with organizing an exhibition to him.
The 42nd edition will witness the release of three new awards.
Watch iT will present a new Award worth 5000$ and Nut Award which is amounted to 10000$ will be presented for the best movie discussing women issues.
The acclaimed Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov is the head of the jury members and veteran actress Lebleba will serve as a jury member.