The 40th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival began on Tuesday night with a crowd pleasing but provocative comedy, Green Book. Directed by Peter Farrelly, the movie has on its cast wonderful actors like Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence, Carlito's Way, The Indian Runner) and Mahershala Ali (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).
Green Book is based on a true story and is set in the 1960s America – a time when segregation and discrimination of blacks were the norm. When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from Bronx, is hired to drive Don Shirley, a world class black pianist, the two knew that they had to rely on the “Green Book' – a survival guide which listed establishments that were safe for African-Americans.
The movie won the People's Choice Award at the recent Toronto International Film Festival – where Green Book premiered. Toronto apart from Cannes and Venice, is considered an important platform for the Oscars. In the past, five audience award winners from Toronto have gone on to win Best Picture Academy Awards -- ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ’12 Years a Slave’, ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Chariots of Fire’.
The Festival’s Artistic Director, Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, said: “Peter Farrelly is a genius who has found worldwide fame for his extraordinary comedies in collaboration with his brother Bobby Farrelly, and I am thrilled to be opening our landmark edition with such an exceptional movie. His latest feature presents a whole new level of artistry with a technically exquisite ﬁlm that addresses a serious issue, but that also manages to remain light-headed and entertaining from beginning to end”.
Cairo is one of the biggest movie festivals in the world, and the oldest in the region. And with festivals at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha having closed down, Cairo has gained enormous importance, and will see 160 films from 60 countries. These will include 16 world premieres. There appears to be none from India, though!
And with two-time Palm dÓr winner, Danish cinema director Bille August, heading the international competition jury and with a new Festival President, Mohamed Hefzy, steering the Festival this year, Cairo may well sparkle. Born in 1975, Hefzy is the youngest President in the Festival’s history.
Hefzy plans to re-establish the Festival’s ties with the international cinema community with this edition. And with the movie fraternity in the region. And this edition thus raises a lot of hope for the Festival under Hefzy.
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the Cairo International Film Festival)
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