In El Gouna, it’s not just about film- you’re going to get fashion whether you like it or not…
The 4th edition of the El Gouna Film Festival has kicked off in El Gouna, Egypt, and yes, during the pandemic, but, it’s full of life with over 200 international guests and filled with all things film and fashion. Undoubtedly, the festival has become the most important starry industry event in Egypt and for the Middle East. The nine-day event is comprised of the region’s top film artists, as well as the international film community, with a star-studded red carpet and opening ceremony, to the week being filled with screenings and panel discussions.
The festival kicked off a glamorous red carpet and opening ceremony on Friday night, with gowns designed by the region’s most talented couture designers from Maison Yeya, Deana Shaaban, Elie Saab and Yasmin Mansour. Aside from film, the festival gives young designers and small brands the opportunity to have a platform to get their name put on the world stage with film stars wearing their creations.
You can’t have a conversation about film without having a conversation about fashion. The two go hand in hand and the El Gouna Film Festival is testament to this. “Fashion and film go very well together. There is a public interest associated with the stars and cinema in general, so we’ve found that they are a good combination when added together,” says Samih Sawiris on the marriage between fashion and film. Designers are benefitting greatly from the social media and media power buzz around the festival that they wouldn’t often get because they don’t have large marketing budgets.
The sprawled out red carpet was filled with the Middle East’s top cinema talent from Amina Khalil, Amr Youssef, Yousra, Nicolas Mouawad, Yasmine Sabri, Stephanie Saliba, Tara Ehmad, Huda El Mufti, and Nesreen Tafesh.
“All the festivals and big events are fashion and film holding hands,” muses the thirty-two year old famed Egyptian actress Amina Khalil. “We watch the Oscars because they’re all about the film and who’s going to win. But have you ever watched the Oscars and not watched the red carpet at the beginning? We all have. We all look at the dresses and the fashion.”
The opening ceremony kicked off with Lebanese singer Ramy Ayach entering the auditorium from the rear and moved up the aisle singing. Egyptian set designer Onsi Abou Seif, was awarded the Career Achievement Award and dedicated it to filmmaker Shady Abdel-Salam. A remembrance slideshow of international and Arab actors who passed away this year was featured.
Whether it’s Hollywood or Egyptian cinema, no one is blind to the fact that cinema has been hit hard this year. The festival director, Intishal Al Timimi talked about the hardships and how the industry will overcome, and that having a festival in the age of Covid was a feat of hard work to make happen. Awards were given to French actor Gerard Depardieu and French-American actor Saïd Taghmaoui was given the Omar Sharif Award
Egypt-based entrepreneur and CEO of Venture Lifestyle Rabiah Mockbel, has been a part of the El Gouna Film Festival since its inception. “The only lack they had the first year was the entertainment. I met Naguib Sawiris three years ago in Lebanon and he told me he wanted me to do the opening of the El Gouna Film Festival party. I came and did the after party and it was successful.” Mockbel has found success with the event as the portfolio of his company is the biggest in Egypt.
But, this iconic festival set in the desert of Egypt didn’t just happen. It took the right minds, teams, investors and celebrities to back an event that is growing from strength to strength with each edition. One such man who has been the spearhead of the El Gouna Film Festival is Amr Mansi.
Amr Manis is a former professional Egyptian squash player and the man behind the El Gouna Film Festival. He and an actress friend turned an idea into a movement, and along with the right team has made the meshing of cinema and fashion in the form of a film festival a success.
In 2009, Mansi was in El Gouna for the new year and it was over breakfast that he had a vision for organizing a professional squash tournament in the small desert village. “Egypt is very good in squash and we didn’t have any big tournaments,” recalls Mansi. He spent the next 8 months working to make the tournament happen- building contacts from scratch, learning skills like event organization, marketing, transportation, all the while encountering setbacks. These setbacks almost led Mansi to giving up but a last-minute sponsor came through and the tournament happened.
As Mansi’s event planning knowledge grew, so did his connections to businessmen like the Sawiris, Egypt’s top wealthy business brothers. Today, Naguib Sawiris is the Festival Founder and his brother Samih Sawiris is the founder of El Gouna village. Mansi and actress Bushra Rozza, worked to make the idea of a festival in the desert happen. “We talked to Naguib Sawiris about our idea and he said, ‘if you guys are doing it, I trust you, let’s do it and I will pay the money.’”
“The idea was to create an event that everyone wants to be a part of and we put together a team of young people. We created partnerships and we included fashion sponsors, we started to make the red carpet very glamorous, and fashion brands started to be interested to partner and dress celebrities. Lancôme partnered with us to do make up. It was never like this before in Egypt.” For Mansi having fashion as an equal player in the festival is more than he could have ever imagined. “I’m so happy that we reached this. The vision that we wanted to create is happening.”
The El Gouna Film Festival will go on until October 31st. To find out more, visit.