Egypt’s ‘Feathers’ wins big at Cannes Critics’ Awards For Arab Films

Omar El Zohairy's award-winning absurdist black satire took awards for best film, director and screenplay

A still of 'Feathers' by Omar El Zohairy.
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Egyptian director Omar El Zohairy's award-winning absurdist black comedy Feathers has won big during the sixth Critics' Awards for Arab Films, which took place on Sunday in Cannes.

The winner of last year's Cannes Critics' Week prize and best Arab feature at El Gouna Film Festival is about a woman’s struggles after her domineering husband is turned into a chicken in a magic trick gone wrong.

It won best film, director and screenplay on Sunday at the awards organised by Cairo's Arab Cinema Centre, which are voted on by 167 film critics from 68 countries.

Scroll through the gallery below to see the awards ceremony in Cannes:

Critics viewed the films on Festival Scope. Nominees are Arabic-language films that had their premieres on the festival circuit outside the Arab world in 2021.

Feathers took six years to get to the big screen.

The film was produced by Juliette Lepoutre from France, in co-production with Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic in Egypt; Shahinaz Al Akkad from Lagoonie Film, also from Egypt; Derk-Jan Warrink and Koji Nelissen from Kepler Film in the Netherlands; Giorgos Karnavas and Konstantinos Kontovrakis from Heretic in Greece; and film producer Verona Meier, who works in Norway and Germany.

In October in El Gouna, where Feathers was one of 16 feature narrative films competing, the film ruffled feathers, causing a few filmmakers and actors to walk out of the screening. A parliamentarian wanted the film producers to be held accountable for allegedly portraying Egypt in a negative light.

“I always knew that Feathers was going to be a difficult film to get everybody to like … especially here in Egypt,” Hefzy told The National.

Other winners at Sunday's event included Palestinian actress Maisa Abd Elhadi, who dominated the acting awards for her performance in Hany Abu Assad's Huda's Salon. This was a film set in Bethlehem that tells the story of Reem, a young woman in a difficult marriage, who goes to Huda’s beauty parlour for a haircut as well as a sympathetic ear.

However, her visit goes awry after Huda extorts Reem into working for the mukhabarat (secret service) of the Israeli occupiers, thus putting her in the crosshairs of the Palestinian resistance.

Meanwhile, Ali Suliman was named best actor for Egyptian director Mohamed Diab's film Amira, based on the real-life Palestinian children conceived using smuggled sperm of Palestinian prisoners who are detained in Israeli jails.

In December, the Royal Film Commission of Jordan withdrew the film, which had its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, from the 2022 Oscars race following an intense online backlash against its storyline.

The best documentary award went to Syria-born Palestinian filmmaker Abdallah Al-Khatib's Little Palestine, Diary Of A Siege, which tells the story of Palestinian refugees living in Yarmouk, Damascus.

Full list of winners of Critics' Awards for Arab Film 2022:

Best film

  • Europa (Iraq) - Haider Rashid
  • Feathers (Egypt) - Omar El Zohairy - WINNER
  • Memory Box (Lebanon) - Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
  • Souad (Egypt, Tunisia) - Ayten Amin
  • The Alleys (Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia) - Bassel Ghandour

Best actor

  • Adam Ali - Europa (Iraq)
  • Ali Suliman - Amira (Palestine) - WINNER
  • Monzer Reyahnah - The Alleys (Jordan)
  • Samir Guesmi - Life Suits Me Well (Morocco)
  • Soufiane Guerrab - A Brighter Tomorrow (Algeria)

Best actress

  • Afef Ben Mahmoud - Streams (Tunisia)
  • Demyana Nassar - Feathers (Egypt)
  • Manal Issa - The Sea Ahead (Lebanon)
  • Maisa Abd Elhadi - Huda’s Salon (Palestine) - WINNER
  • Saba Mubarak - Amira (Jordan)

Best director

  • Ayten Amin - Souad (Egypt)
  • Bassel Ghandour - The Alleys (Jordan)
  • Ely Dagher - The Sea Ahead (Lebanon)
  • Hany Abu-Assad - Huda’s Salon (Palestine)
  • Omar El Zohairy - Feathers (Egypt) - WINNER

Best screenplay

  • Ayten Amin, Mahmoud Ezzat - Souad (Egypt)
  • Bassel Ghandour - The Alleys (Jordan)
  • Ely Dagher - The Sea Ahead (Lebanon)
  • Khalil Joreige, Joana Hadjithomas - Memory Box (Lebanon)
  • Omar El Zohairy, Ahmed Amer - Feathers (Egypt) - WINNER

Best documentary

  • As I Want (Egypt) - Samaher Alqadi
  • A Thousand Fires (Palestine) - Saeed Taji Farouky
  • Little Palestine: Diary of A Siege (Palestine-Lebanon) - Abdallah Al-Khatib - WINNER
  • Miguel’s War (Lebanon) - Eliane Raheb
  • Republic Of Silence (Syria) - Diana El Jeiroud

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Updated: May 23, 2022, 8:07 AM