FESTIVALS: Sheikh Jackson to open El Gouna Film Festival

Amr Salama’s Sheikh Jackson, about an Islamic cleric coming to terms with the death of the king of pop, has been selected as the opening film of the inaugural edition of the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt.

Co-produced by Egypt’s Film Clinic and The Producers, the film will receive its world premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Salama’s credits include AIDs-themed drama Asmaa (2011) and comedy Excuse My French (2014).

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, about the global migration crisis, will close the festival, which runs September 22-29.

Founded by Egyptian telecoms billionaire Naguib Sawiris, El Gouna Film Festival aims to support all contemporary forms of creative expression in the MENA region, as well as encourage cultural interaction between young Arab filmmmakers and their counterparts in the rest of the world.

The festival has three competition sections with cash prizes – Feature Narrative Competition, Feature Documentary Competition and Short Films Competition – and is also organising a range of industry activities.

In addition to Sheikh Jackson, the 12 titles selected for the narrative competition include Annarita Zambrano’s After The War, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Third Murder, Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult and Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s No Bed Of Roses.

The 12-title Feature Documentary Competition includes films such as Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Wonders Of The Sea and Wang Bing’s recent Locarno winner Mrs Fang.

In addition, the festival features an Out of Competition section that will screen titles such as Ruben Ostlund’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Square, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, Anurag Kashyap’s The Brawler and Michel Hazanavicius’ Redoubtable.

Parallel to the screenings, El Gouna is organising the CineGouna platform, a creative and business hub designed to support Egyptian and Arab talents by arranging meetings with Arab and international directors, producers and distributors.

Headed by CEO Amr Mansi with former Abu Dhabi Film Festival programmer Intishal Al Timimi as festival director, El Gouna has a programming team including Amir Ramses, Teresa Cavina, Nicole Guillmet and Raman Chawla.

El Gouna is a Red Sea resort town built on 10 kilometres of beach, around 25 kilometres north of Hurghada.