Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival kicked off on Thursday night with the usual red carpet glamour, opening ceremony and mingling in the main plaza, with no signs of the fire the day before.
Egyptian superstar Mohamed Ramadan performed his new song Gaw El Banat from Universal Arabic Music with Grammy-winning Moroccan-Swedish music producer RedOne and Moroccan-Dutch singer Nouamane Belaiachi.
Ramadan, known for hit song Ya Habibi with Congolese-French rapper Maitre Gims, announced Gaw El Banat as the official song of El Gouna Film Festival on his Instagram earlier on Thursday.
The fifth edition of the festival will include 75 international and regional feature narratives, short films and documentaries from 44 countries, with eight world and two international premieres. It runs until Friday, October 22.
Samih Sawiris, founder of El Gouna, said this year’s festival started with the added challenge of the fire, but he praised the quick turnaround. “I’ve never been as proud of the people who work with me than in the last 24 hours,” he said.
Also during the opening ceremony, Egyptian actor Sayed Ragab presented a video tribute to the filmmakers and actors who have died this year.
They include Egyptians, such as comedian Samir Ghanem, actress Dalal Abdel Aziz, screenwriter Wahid Hamed and actor Ezzat El Alaili; and international film personalities, such as Tunisian director Moufida Tlatli and French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Festival director Intishal Al Timimi introduced the juries for the feature narrative, feature documentary and short film competitions, as well as the inaugural El Gouna Green Star Award.
The feature narrative competition jury includes Menna Shalaby, who recently became the first Egyptian and Arab actress to be nominated for an Emmy.
Egyptian actor Ahmed El Sakka was presented with a Career Achievement Award. In his speech, he dedicated the award to Ghanem, Abdel Aziz and Egyptian businessman Onsi Sawiris, as well as his parents, wife and colleagues.
He said his father taught him humility and how to relate to people no matter how famous you are.
“My father told me, take every aspect of a star – except its distance. Let people reach you and then you will be a true star,” El Sakka said.
Renowned Egyptian actress Lebleba gave a speech honouring Ghanem, who died in May, aged 84, from Covid-19. This was followed by a video and performance celebrating Ghanem's long career.
To conclude the ceremony, Ramadan, wearing a gold jacket, took to the stage with RedOne and Belaiachi for their performance of Gaw El Banat.
The festival has a tradition of being the platform that releases new Arabic songs, right from its inaugural edition in 2017 when 3 Daqat by Abu featuring Youssra became a phenomenal success.