Cairo Festival: 'Mediterranea' Wins Top Honor, 'Umrika' Gets Critics Award


The refugee drama also wins Koudous Seihon a best actor honor.

Jonas Carpignano’s Mediterranea won the Golden Pyramid award at the 37th Cairo International Film Festival and also nabbed the best actor honor for Koudous Seihon.

The star portrays a man who leaves his little daughter behind in Burkina Faso to find a better life on the European continent. The multinational co-production had previously toured several festivals, including Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Venice, London and Zurich, but had so far only garnered honorable mentions.

The Silver Pyramid was awarded to Dagur Kari’s Icelandic comedy Virgin Mountain, about a recluse and the woman who turns his life upside down, while the Bronze — reserved for first or second feature films — went to Santiago Mitre’s Paulina, the story of a rape victim who refuses to file charges against her poverty-stricken attackers.

Other individual achievements honored were French actress Louise Bourgoin’s performance as a young woman making ends meet as an accomplice in her uncle’s dog-trafficking business in I Am a Soldier, with the best screenplay award going to Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu for the dark comedy The Treasure.

A special award for best artistic achievement was given to Dalibor Matanic’s Serbia-Croatia co-production The High Sun, the story of the two countries’ bloody conflict told in three poignant vignettes, with its leading actors Tihana Lazovic and Goran Markovic playing different parts in each.

Members of the international jury were producer Paul Webster (U.K.), actress Radhika Apte (India), director Jonatan Relayze Chiang (Peru), actress Dalia Elbehery (Egypt), director Marwan Hamed (Egypt), director Laila Marrakchi (Morocco), director George Ovashvili (Georgia) and producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint (France).

The FIPRESCI award, given out by the International Federation of Film Critics, went to Prashant Nair’s Umrika, in which a young Indian boy leaves his village in search of his once U.S.-bound older brother, who has since vanished in the land of opportunity.

Awards given by the jury of the Horizons of Arab Cinema section went to Mohammed Bin Rashid for The Sleeping Tree from Bahrain, with the Salah Abou Seif prize for best film going to Waiting for the Fall by Joud Saeed.

The 37th Cairo International Film Festival, which had been canceled in 2011 and 2013 because of security concerns and lack of funds, took place Nov. 10-20.

Overshadowed first by the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268, then later by attacks in Beirut, Paris and Mali, it was conducted with strict security measures in place by festival president Magda Wassef and her staff. Despite widespread concern about the politically unstable situation in the region, guests from many films turned up, with actress Claudia Cardinale accepting a lifetime achievement award at the festival’s opening.