In March, 13 Egyptians filmmakers and industry professionals attended the world-renowned film festival CPH:DOX featuring 200 new documentaries and amble possibilities for professional networking.
By Elisabeth Vang Jørgensen
By Elisabeth Vang Jørgensen
We’re in the middle of Vesterbro, a busy, vibrant district in Copenhagen. Small cafes are filled with people enjoying the early spring weather, while busy Copenhageners are racing by on their bikes. However, something is a bit different in the ordinary cityscape, because people from all over the world are gathered for the annual CPH:DOX film festival – one of the biggest and most prestigious documentary festivals in the world.
Among those filmmakers taking part in CPH:DOX this year are 13 Egyptian filmmakers and industry professionals. During their week-long stay in Denmark, they had the chance to watch more than 200 new documentaries from all over the world, while also attending seminars about financing, networking, and co-production.
Normally at film festivals, you only see a small section dedicated to documentaries, whereas CPH:DOX directs the spotlight at documentaries only. This creates a completely unique atmosphere because everyone here is passionate about the genre
Cairo-based filmmaker Ahmed Deiab
Alexandria-based filmmaker Mayye Zayed, best known for her 2020 feature documentary film Lift Like a Girl, which has been supported by DEDI and is now streaming on Netflix, says that taking part in the festival is important for her work first and foremost because of the networking aspect. “Establishing partnerships can be difficult and takes lots of time, but being here and meeting new people is the first baby step,” she explains.
Mayye Zayed elaborates: “After having screened Lift Like a Girl at many film festivals, I felt the need to show the film in underprivileged areas of Egypt. People there normally don’t watch documentaries, so through the screening and the following workshop, we created a space where the participants got an insight into filmmaking and an opportunity to relate to characters similar to themselves,” she says.
Seeing the success and the significance of these types of screenings, Mayye Zayed wishes to continue working along this path. She says “By going to CPH:DOX I hope to find people who are as passionate as me about this way of screening documentaries. Being here creates access to the bigger market in Europe, US, and Southern America, and I hope it will open new doors for more impactful screenings.”
CPH:DOX also presents several programs parallel to the screenings program. One of them is the industry platform CPH:FORUM. Here, top producers and highly acknowledged directors from all over the world take the stage to pitch carefully selected projects. Besides the presentations, CPH:FORUM offers pitch preparation and highly tailored one-on-one meetings between the presenting teams, potential co-production partners, and interested financiers and distributors.
Haisam Abdelhamed, producer, director, and scriptwriter, who is currently working on a feature about female football players says: “I’m mainly attending this festival to network with other industry professionals. But attending the pitches has been a really good experience because it pushes you to think about how you want to present your own film – and what questions you might be asked,” he explains.
“In my opinion, Egypt has a lot of potential and there are so many untold stories,” Ahmed Deiab says. “However, there’s also a part of filmmaking that has to do with business and knowing how to present your idea, how to sell it, and how to get people involved, so you can go beyond Egypt. That’s why I think this experience is so important for me as a filmmaker,” he elaborates on the value of CPH:FORUM to filmmakers’ careers.
With a new film idea in mind about match-makers in Egypt and the commercialization of love, Ahmed Deiab reflects upon the new opportunities CPH:DOX has given him “At the festival, I learned about different film development programs in Munich, Beirut, and Brussels. My plan is to start working on a trailer for my new idea so I can apply for all three of them,” he continues. “These programs will help me develop my idea further, and I’m really excited to see where it takes me.”
For Haisam Abdelhamed and Ahmed Deiab, it was their first time in Denmark. Enjoying not only the film festival but also the vibrant city without covid restrictions, was a major part of their stay. “I think this experience is exactly what we needed after two years of restrictions. The ability to travel and meet face-to-face in big groups reminds me of how grateful I am that we’re finally going back to normal.”
Also, Mayye Zayed felt relieved to finally travel again “I was supposed to go to Copenhagen in March 2020 to finish the sound mixing of Lift Like a Girl, which obviously didn’t happen. To sit here exactly two years later is very emotional, and it feels like things are finally back on track. It is such a good feeling,” she concludes with a big smile.
This project was managed by Project Officer Doaa Fayyad