CWM: The second edition of El Gouna Film Festival has been acclaimed as a resounding success. How were you able to build on the experience gained in GFF 2017?
AM: Thank you so much! I give credit to every single person in the team who worked tirelessly day and night to ensure the second edition raised the bar of success. When we started working on our first edition we had a team of young people, most of who had never worked on a festival before, let alone a large-scale international event such as GFF. We had started working on the preparations only six months before the festival. There were definitely a lot of key learning curves that were captured from the first edition, which helped us manage the second edition better. The team is now more experienced and we started working much earlier this year to ensure we could deliver a more robust festival.
What new elements did GFF 2018 have?
Our special program included 16 exciting events this year. Among them were three tributes planned, including film screenings, exhibitions, panels and master classes. We celebrated Youssef Chahine’s iconic career to mark the 10th anniversary of his death with a memorable orchestral concert of all the music from his films. We also celebrated the 100th anniversary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth and the 25th anniversary of the passing of legendary director Federico Fellini. Other than that, the festival was one day longer than the first edition and the Official Selection competition for Feature Narrative, Feature Documentary and Short Film Competitions had several screenings sold out a day or two in advance. Our CineGouna platform also grew substantially. There were 12 projects in development and 6 films in post-production that were competing for the CineGouna SpringBoard awards that totalled $175,000. The filmmakers had a fantastic opportunity to network with potential co-producers, funding agencies, distributors and festival programmers. Last but not least, CineGouna Bridge had a stellar line-up of workshops, master classes and roundtables that included speakers such as Owen Wilson, Daoud Abdel Sayed and Tarek Ben Ammar.
What do you consider to have been the standout moments of GFF 2018?
I think that varies from one person to the other, given that every day there were incredible moments that you could only experience at GFF. For me personally, I was honoured to meet Sylvester Stallone, as I grew up watching his films.
What feedback have you had from participants, attendees and followers of GFF?
Overall we’ve received very positive feedback from everyone that attended and we’re very much looking forward to their participation in our third edition in 2019.
Of course it is gaining momentum and we can see this through the level of participation and interest from participants, which was much higher than last year. During the first edition, people were excited to attend because everyone has a love for Gouna knowing it’s a fun location with a great atmosphere and because they trust that anything that the Sawiris Family invests in has to be of international standard. However, some must have had doubts in our ability to pull it off given it was our first time to manage a film festival. But thankfully, we succeeded because we made sure to put together an experienced management team who had a dedicated group of young people full of passion to support them. Also, thanks to the support of the media who covered our festival in its first edition, the exposure we got helped us gain stronger momentum this year and hopefully next year too. The media was a great tool for us to relay to the world that GFF is one of the leading film festivals in the region and that Egypt is not only safe for all people of the world but also that it will regain its role as the hub for arts and culture.