Mohamed Hefzy: “CIFF’s history drives us towards a special mission for excellence.”

Samir Sabry and Hassan Hosny: “It’s a pleasure to receive honors from the CIFF in our life time.”

Pavel Lungin: “Cairo deserves to be a capital for world cinema.”

Peter Greenaway: “The art of cinema changes over time, and we look forward to making cinema that keeps up with reality.”

Youssef Cherif Rizkallah: “I’m much obliged to have worked with the CIFF over 30 years during which I made sure the Festival gives a rich cinematic content that matches the major international festivals.”

With “Big Dreams” as a motto, the proceedings of the 40th Cairo International Film Festival took off in the Cairo Opera House’s Main Hall in the presence of Culture Minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, the Festival’s President producer and scenarist Mohamed Hefzy, Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Waly, Tourism Minister Rania el-Mashat, as well as a large gathering of filmmakers and stars from Egypt and all over the world. This edition has made sure to wear the attire of internationality in every possible way. The opening ceremony was held in the Main Hall of the Cairo Opera House and was covered by DMC channel, a sponsor.

The Festival’s management organized a special program for the opening ceremony which started with a short film narrated by actor and singer Samir Sabry on the history of cinema, and after the film Sabry spoke about his relation to the CIFF that started 40 years ago, for he was the one who also presented the 1st edition of the Festival which was established by renowned writer Kamal el-Mallakh. He also spoke about the patrons of the 1st edition, Abdel Halim Hafez, Warda and Nagwa Fouad, about how Hafiz and Warda donated the fees from one of their concerts to the Festival, and how Nagwa Fouad managed to persuade a few hotels to host the proceedings of the 1st edition; then he told the audience about how Saad el-Din Wahba managed to gain accreditation and to make the CIFF get listed as an international festival. Sabry afterwards proceeded to salute all CIFFs presidents in the different phases of the Festival, starting with great actor Hussein Fahmy, Dr. Magda Wasif, actor Ezzat Abu Ouf, screen writer Sherif Shobashy, and many others till he got to the current president, scenarist Mohamed Hefzy who is also the youngest president that headed the Festival. Finally, Sabry concluded his talk by presenting actor Maged el-Kedwany who presented the ceremony’s program which he in turn started with a short report on the secret of number 40 in the lives of Egyptians. El-Kedwany then presented a special musical episode where actor Sherif Mounir gave a performance with the drums after which he spoke about his relation to the Festival, how he would care to attend its editions, and how he participated as a jury member in one of the editions. Mounir concluded by saying that Egyptian cinema will always be moving forward despite the setbacks that the production of drama occasionally faces.

El-Kedwany then proceeded to present actress Sherin Reda who welcomed the guests and said that cinema theatres is the only place where people do not fear the dark because cinema moves and inspires them, and it is the only place where our ideas can take shape. She then asked the Festival’s President Mohamed Hefzy to take the stage and give his speech. Hefzy started his talk by welcoming the Ministers of Culture, Tourism and Social Solidarity as well as the audience, then he proceeded to explain why this edition in particular is a challenging one especially that it bears the number 40 which makes it a special edition, the matter which makes the management strive towards excellence. He added: “That’s why I have to extend my thanks to everybody who contributed to this edition, most of all Culture Minister Inas Abdel Dayem, the Festival’s Artistic Director and great figure Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, and our sponsors without whom the edition would have never seen the light”. Hefzy then asked Abdel Dayem to mount the stage to give her speech which she began by saying: “Allow me to express my great delight to be part of the 40th Cairo International Film Festival’s opening ceremony, and allow me to express deep gratitude for everyone who presided over this great event from the late Kamal el-Mallakh to the current president Mohamed Hefzy, the creative scenarist, progressive thinker, and open-minded artist with the acute awareness of world cultures… We launch this edition with hopes, ambitions and efforts that seek to elevate art and share our vision with the world. Cinema takes us to all sorts of worlds; cinema gives life, and it takes from life, and I hope this Festival gets to be an opportunity for sharing life’s experiences”. Abdel Dayem concluded her talk by thanking President Hefzy and Artistic director Rizkallah- who is one of the Festival’s most important pillars- and by wishing everyone good progress and advancement.

After Minister Abdel Dayem’s speech, the international competition’s jury started mounting the stage. Actress Nelly Karim then proceeded to give Russian director Pavel Lungin the first award since the CIFF celebrates Russian cinema this year. Lungin was nominated for 300 international awards of which he received 12, and these included a Cannes award in 1990. On receiving the award Lungin said: “It didn’t occur to me that I had made important films that deserve honoring, and therefore I give my thanks to the CIFF’s management for such honor. Never in my life have I seen people laughing in a festival’s opening ceremony! You truly deserve to be a capital of world cinema.”

Next was Leila Elwi who took the stage to give Peter Greenaway the Faten Hamama Award. Greenaway’s works were described as “harmonious pictures”, and about the award he said: “It’s a great honor to be with you tonight. I was fortunate to have made 60 films in 40 years, but cinema changes by time and we must look forward to make cinema that keeps up with today’s reality”.

About honoring great actor Hassan Hosny, director Dawood Abdel-Sayed said that Hosny is such an able actor who can make you believe any character he plays, which makes him and other actors like him indispensable. About his honorary award Hosny himself said that he is truly happy to be honored in his life time, and he gave his thanks to the Festival’s management. After that, composer Rageh Dawood mounted the stage to honor fellow-composer Hisham Nazih by giving him the Faten Hamama Excellence Award.

By the end of the ceremony, Hefzy paid a special tribute to Rizkallah for his formidable role in supporting the Festival throughout its history, and in turn Rizkallah thanked Abdel Dayem for renewing confidence in him as Artistic Director for the Festival. He also extended his thanks to everyone who contributed to the current edition as well as expressed his happiness for having worked in the Festival for 30 years during which he made sure the Festival gives a rich cinematic content that matches the major international festivals.

The opening ceremony was concluded by screening Green Book which received the People’s Choice Award in the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Green Book was written by Brian Hayes Currie, directed by Peter Farrelli, and features stars Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Lindan Cardinelli.

Synopsis of the film: When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book”, a guide book to the few establishments that were then safe and accessible for African-Americans. Confronted with racism and danger—as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.