Fire? What Fire? Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival Parties Like It’s 2019

The fire that engulfed a section of Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival’s Festival Plaza on Wednesday turned out to be a minor deterrent as the event’s fifth anniversary got off to a rousing start on Thursday.

The fire, the cause of which has not yet been confirmed but is possibly a short circuit, was contained swiftly, with Samih Sawiris, chair of festival parent company Orascom Development Holding, personally supervizing repairs. By the end of the process, it was like a fire had never happened.

Variety spoke to a selection of attendees including jury members, film festival programmers, journalists and local staff about the fire and none of them expressed any safety concerns.

Sawiris was very much in evidence during the festival’s opening ceremony, held as scheduled at the Festival Plaza, appearing on stage twice. The 90-minute event featuring several speeches in Arabic (with English translations available via headphones) and musical performances went down a storm.

The biggest applause was reserved for Egyptian actor Ahmed el-Sakka, who received the El Gouna career achievement award on stage and delivered a heartfelt speech. His recent credits include “Aserb: The Squadron,” “The Spider,” “200 Pounds” and “Outsider Bloodline.”

The after party that followed, also at the Festival Plaza, was a cheering affair harking back to the glorious pre-COVID days of 2019. Egypt’s bright and the beautiful rubbed shoulders with industry elders and a selection of international guests, proving that, at least until the next coronavirus wave, the film festival scene is on the upswing.

The El Gouna Film Festival runs Oct. 14-22.

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