The Cairo International Film Festival has begun.
The 44th event launched on Sunday night with a ceremony held at the Cairo Opera House in the Zamalek district. The festival will run until November 22.
Actors, directors and celebrities from 52 different countries had been arriving in Egypt over the past week to walk the festival’s red carpet.
Festival director Amir Ramses told reporters that this year is going to be different from all previous events, promising a number of surprises.
“The 44th edition is hosting some of this year’s most important films. We have titles which have already received awards from other film festivals this year but we’ve also got some really great films making their international debut with us," he said. "One of the most exciting aspects for me this year is a new film restoration project which is a new addition to the festival.”
One of the biggest films showing this year is The Fabelmans, the latest title by Steven Spielberg that was chosen as the festival's opening film.
Arab films are also expected to play an important role this year.
Of the 97 films participating, 58 are from the Mena region. Six Egyptian films are participating, including a feature narrative and feature documentary, and four shorts helmed by up-and-coming regional directors.
Ahmad Abdalla's 19B is expected to turn a number of heads, as many festivalgoers highlighted it as one to watch out for. In total, 29 films are making their world premiere at CIFF this year.
One of the most exciting aspects of the event is the masterclasses. This year's sessions include a class by Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr and another by Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase.
Streaming platform Netflix is also hosting a masterclass that focuses on visual effects in film.
“I am very proud to be a part of this landmark cultural event organised by the state," said the festival's new president, renowned actor Hussein Fahmy, who took over from Mohamed Hefzy last year.
"It's truly my pleasure to return to the presidency after so many years and to witness this beautiful journey unfold.”
Prizes at the Cairo International Film Festival
This year, CIFF is offering cash awards in three categories. The highest is the Youssef Cherif Rizkallah Audience Award of $15,000, which recognises the film that receives the highest number of votes from audience members.
The Best Arab Film award comes with a $10,000 prize, and the Youssef Chahine award of $4,000 is given to the best short film chosen by a panel of judges.
The most esteemed honour has gone to veteran Egyptian actress Lebleba, 75, who received a standing ovation on Sunday night when she was handed the Golden Pyramid Award by Fahmy. A reel of her best work from her five-decade career was played at the opening.
"I love you all so much," Lebleba, who began her career as a child, said during her acceptance speech.
"I would most importantly like to thank my audience who has supported me since I was child and continues to until this day."
The 44th Cairo International Film Festival runs until November 22