Aiming to bridge the gap between novice artists and public audiences, MasrDotBokra hosted the third edition of its online festival that introduced dozens of new filmmakers to the professional art scene in Egypt. The application process started on 22 December 2016, while the grant applications started in January. On 6 May, the best movies and the winners were announced.
“MasrDotBokra is a non-profit organisation registered and established in 2013. Over three years, we held our online festival to encourage young filmmakers to produce films and show their artistic talents,” festival manager Nadine El-Dirine said.
This year, the festival included three main competitions: two for movies and one for production grants, which reached EGP 70,000 and were distributed between four winning projects with the best scripts. Each competition was divided into three categories: animation, narrative, and documentaries.
“This year, we allowed students from all over Egypt to participate in the competition by submitting their movies that were posted online. About 21 movies were selected and people were asked to vote for their favourite film,” she added.
The students’ competition witnessed a wide range of creative ideas and treatments, including the film “Subconscious” by Mohammed Yehia, which tackled the internal conflict happening between human will and instinct by showing a story of a woman that has the will to seek revenge for her husband, and the short film “The Game as Follows”, which featured a man who has the ability to know what will happen in his life even before he is born. Some documentaries tackled the habits and traditions of the Berber Amazighs who live in Siwa, the struggles of street photographers, the customs and traditions of Nubia, and many others.
“In the short films competition, Maysoon Al Masry won the first place in the narrative section for her movie ‘Sharea Al Bostan Al Saed’ (The Happy Garden Street), while Marina Ramsis won the first place in documentary for her movie ‘22’, and Ibrahim Dwedar was ranked the first in animation for his movie ‘Moraba’at’ (Squares). Each winner got EGP 30,000 to fund their projects,” she added.
As for the students’ online movies, the movie “Smoking is Forbidden” by Mohammed Ashraf won the first place in the narrative section, and Gailan Mahmoud came on the top of the competing documentaries, winning EGP 15,000.
On the other side, Mohammed Abdel Hafez, Dalia El Sawy, Abdel Aziz Al Nagar, and Mohammed Mokhtar were the grant winners for this year. The audience award went to Samir Al Barry for his movie “Nas Teshbehlena” (People Like Us) with a EGP 10,000 award.
“What makes us so special is the big outreach,” said Mohammed El Faramawy, the creative director of the festival. “Although MasrDotBokra is an organisation that is not directly linked to the art scene and it was our first time to do an art project three years ago, we managed to reach a wide range of audiences who were not familiar with the idea of short film festivals and didn’t know that there is a big independent film scene that is growing gradually in Egypt,” he added.
This year was also special because they managed to coordinate with Al-Falaki Theatre at the American University in Cairo to host a number of screenings for the participating movies, which allowed them to grab the attention of larger audiences. After the screenings of the movies, film critics held a number of open discussions with the audience members to analyse each short film’s message and implementation.
In El Faramawy’s opinion, what makes this festival remarkable is the fact that it is open to all filmmakers from all kinds of experiences and backgrounds, and it is also able to provide a very diverse and dynamic programme for filmmakers who have different points of views.
“MasrDotBokra also provides a great connection between the filmmakers and everyone else behind the scenes; we see every email and we respond to every phone call to keep that strong bond,” he added.
In addition to providing funding for some of the projects, the festival holds a big number of workshops for amateur filmmakers.
“This year, we started a big number of training sessions and workshops, as we found that we have many opportunities to work directly with the filmmakers. The sessions cover a lot of topics from the preproduction to postproduction stages. They provide a mix between technical and creative producing techniques,” he noted.
El Faramawy believes such workshops are a great opportunity for young people who want to get into the filmmaking career as they provide editing, screenwriting, and directing trainings, as well as giving some sessions to teach artists how to prepare presentations or send proposals for different grants around the world in order to apply for funding.
“We don’t allow more than 25 people to attend the workshop in order to give everyone equal time to work, talk, and ask questions. We were very lucky to have Mariam Naoum, the leading scriptwriter, to be a jury member for the festival, and we thought that she would be a perfect person for a series of screenwriting workshops to convey her experience to amateur writers,” he concluded.