Gouna Film Festival an Ode to Cinema, Culture, and Humanity

The 2023 Edition Kicks Off with a special focus on Palestine

Gouna film festival GFF
Image by @elgounafilmfestivalofficial Instagram

The 2023 Gouna Film Festival (GFF) is finally underway after being postponed twice due to the tragic events in Gaza.
The sixth edition of the festival, which runs from December 14th to 21st, is dedicated to showcasing the diverse and interconnected stories, experiences, and lives of people in the region and beyond, with a special focus on Palestine.

The GFF opening ceremony
The festival kicked off featuring a soul-touching performance by singer Elyanna, who sang her song ‘Olive Trees’ in honor of the Palestinian cause. The ceremony also honored the late iconic and cherished actress and singer Jane Birkin, who received a homage for her remarkable contributions to cinema and music. A selection of some of her greatest films, such as La Piscine, Blow for Blow, and Je t’aime moi non plus, were screened at the event.

Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean singer and songwriter, from the GFF opening ceremony

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Window on Palestine
The festival also features a unique program dedicated to showcasing Palestinian films, in cooperation with the Palestine Film Institute. The program titled, Window on Palestine, includes 12 films that reflect the rich and diverse cinematic heritage of Palestine, as well as the current realities and aspirations of its people. The program aims to amplify the voices of Palestinian filmmakers and artists and to foster dialogue and understanding among the audiences.

Speaking about the film screenings and the proposed discussion, Marianne Khoury, Artistic Director of GFF said “The inclusion of the ‘Window on Palestine’ program in this special edition of GFF serves as a potent demonstration of our festival’s commitment to amplify the voices of Palestinians through the lens of cinema. This programme offers to its audiences a unique opportunity to unearth or revisit the nuanced Palestinian narratives portrayed on the screen and engage in meaningful discussions, with filmmakers who will be able to make it to El Gouna”.

Sudan Film Group, and Goodbye Julia Premiere
Sudanese cinema was significantly recognized by the GFF, showcasing a selection of eight restored short films from the Sudanese Film Group. These films, directed by Suliman Elnour, Eltayeb Mahdi, and Ibrahim Shaddad, were considered lost for decades and were recovered and restored by the Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst, Berlin. Moreover, the MENA premiere of the poignant film Goodbye Julia, written and directed by Mohamed Kordofani, starring South Sudanese actress Siran Riak the first from Sudan ever to be featured in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival and Sudan’s submission for the Best International Film Category.

Gouna Film Festival
Goodbye Julia crew GFF Image by @siranriyak_ Instagram

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Career Achievement Award Goes To
The Egyptian director Marwan Hamed, received the Career Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to the film industry. He also got his own El Gouna Film Festival masterclass, which was moderated by CEO Alaa Karkouti of Mad Solutions. Hamed is known for his acclaimed films such as The Yacoubian Building, The Blue Elephant, and Diamond Dust.

Gouna Film Festival
Marwan Hamed Masterclass GFF

The festival’s lineup includes 84 films from 42 countries, representing a wide range of genres, styles, and themes. Among the highlights are Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes; Nicolas Philibert’s documentary On the Adamant, winner of the 2023 Berlinale Golden Bear; and Guto Parente’s The Strange Path, which won four major awards at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival.
In addition to the film screenings, the festival also offers various opportunities for networking, learning, and collaboration among filmmakers, industry professionals, audiences, and activities, such as the CineGouna Platform, which supports the development and co-production of film projects from the Arab world. The platform, which received 135 submissions this year, selected 12 projects for the development stage and 12 projects for the post-production stage. The selected projects will compete for various grants and awards and will have the opportunity to network with regional and international film professionals.

GFF also launched the CineGouna Market, a new initiative that aims to facilitate the distribution and sales of films from the region and beyond. The market, which is open to accredited industry guests, provides a platform for filmmakers, producers, distributors, sales agents, and buyers to showcase and discover films, and to explore potential collaborations and partnerships. The festival also hosted masterclasses, panels, workshops, and Q&A sessions with renowned experts and guests
The 2023 Gouna Film Festival is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the film community and to the power of cinema to inspire, connect, and heal. It aimed to foster a dialogue among different cultures and perspectives and to amplify the voices of filmmakers who have stories to tell. The festival’s motto, “Cinema for Humanity”, reflects its vision and mission to celebrate the art of filmmaking, and to support the causes and values that matter to humanity.

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