Arab cinema might be getting the spotlight at the 2021 Oscars. Short films coming out of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) certainly will. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) – the governing body that organises the Oscars –made the CIFF an Oscar-qualifying film festival in the Short Film category. The CIFF announced the good news on social media on Sunday, November 23, writing: "It's a Golden Edition! The Cairo International Film Festival becomes an Oscar-qualifying festival."
The AMPAS accreditation means that short films coming out of the CIFF next year could compete in the 2021 Oscars along with pictures from international festivals such as Cannes and Venice.
The 41st iteration of the festival, which runs until Friday, November 29, is showcasing some of the region's most anticipated works of the year, hosting premieres for films such as Palestinian director Najwa Najjar's divorce drama Between Heaven and Earth and UAE-Lebanese co-production Beirut Terminus by Elie Kamal. Among the showcases was a premiere for A Son, the debut feature film from Tunisian director Mehdi M Barsaoui. Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen's Scales, about an Arab tribe that hunts mermaids for food, also screened over the weekend, as part of the Arab Cinema Competition. The festival, which began in 1976, is the oldest and most internationally accredited annually running film festival in the MENA region.
During the opening ceremony, the festival honoured names including British director Terry Gilliam who won the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby, who took home the Faten Hamama Excellence Award for her work in cinema.
Back in April, AMPAS announced that the Foreign Language Film category was to be renamed International Feature Film, because “the reference to ‘Foreign’ is outdated within the global filmmaking community”, said Larry Karaszewski and Diane Weyermann, co-chairs of the category’s committee.
The Academy issued a statement to clarify its position. “In April 2019, we announced that the name of the Foreign Language Film category changed to International Feature Film. We also confirmed that the rules for the category would not change,” it said. “The intent of the award remains the same – to recognise accomplishment in films created outside of the United States in languages other than English.”