Egyptian filmmaker Sameh Alaa wins Palme D'Or for best short at Cannes

The first Egyptian short to be nominated for the Palme d'Or has taken the title

CANNES, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: Short film Palme d'Or winner Sameh Alaa attends the Best Short Film Palme D'Or Award Ceremony of the "Special Cannes 2020 : Le Festival Revient Sur La Croisette !" as part of the Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on October 29, 2020 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Egyptian director Sameh Alaa has scooped the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The filmmaker's latest work I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face took first place at the Best Short Film Palme D'Or Award Ceremony. The coveted award is the highest prize given to a film at the internationally renowned festival in France.

As well as being the first Egyptian film to win the award, Alaa's film also represented the first time an Egyptian short had been nominated for it.

The 15-minute film tells the story of Adam, a man trying to return to his girlfriend after leaving for 82 days.

Alaa had previously told The National about his surprise on learning that he'd been nominated for the award. "It was a big surprise, but a good surprise. It was totally unexpected because for a long time, we didn't know if the festival was going to happen, even after we got shortlisted."

He was up against 10 other filmmakers from around the world with entries from Belgium, Britain, Colombia, Canada, France, Greece, Mongolia, Portugal and the United States.

His Cannes success isn't Alaa's first taste of international recognition. The 32-year-old director's previous short, Fifteen, was the first Egyptian film to make it to the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival's Short Cuts Programme.

No ordinary year

CANNES, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: Cannes Film Festival pays a tribute to Nice attack victims with a black carpet at Palais des Festivals on October 29, 2020 in Cannes, France. A man armed with a knife fatally attacked people in the Notre-Dame church in Nice, located in the heart of the city on the morning of October 29th.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Earlier this year, organisers of Cannes Film Festival postponed its 73rd session, pushing it from May to October because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The red carpet opened on Tuesday night in the French Riviera, with the festival reimagined as a low-key affair. Usually taking place over two weeks, this year's three-day event showcased a range of short films and was missing much of the celebrity flock that typically adorn the festival promenade. Those who were in attendance wore face masks and observed social distancing rules.

Organisers rolled out a black carpet and held a minute of silence for the victims of the terrorist attack that took place in nearby Nice on the same morning of the Best Short Film Palme D'Or Award Ceremony.