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Sameh Alaa Is First Egyptian Filmmaker to Win Cannes Palme d’Or

Sameh Alaa Becomes First Egyptian Filmmaker to Win Cannes’ Palme d’Or

Short film Palme d’Or winner Sameh Alaa. Photo: Getty

Egyptian film director Sameh Alaa has taken home top honors for his short-film I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival.

Considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry, the Palme d’Or win for Alaa marks a moment in history; with him not only being the first Egyptian filmmaker to win the award but also signifying the first time an Egyptian short film had been nominated for it.

I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face, a 15-minute long film, was unanimously named as the winner by the Short Film jury, made up of some of the biggest names in French cinema, and was selected out of 11 other short-films nominated from a total of 3,180 films.

The film tells the story of a man who undertakes a challenging journey to return to his girlfriend after months of separation. Starring actors Seif Eldin Hemida and Nourhan Ali Abdelazez, the short movie was the only Arab film selected for the award. “It was a big surprise, but a good surprise. It was totally unexpected because, for a long time, we didn’t know if the festival was going to happen, even after we got shortlisted,” said Alaa of his surprise at his nomination for the acclaimed prize.

Following his historic win at the closing ceremony, the Cannes Film Festival personally congratulated the Egyptian director on Instagram, noting, “Tonight he won the short-film Palme d’Or 2020. Congratulations to Egyptian director Sameh Alaa.”

The Cannes Film Festival looked somewhat different this year. In light of the coronavirus pandemic the festival, which was originally scheduled for May, was presented in a digital form in October over a three-day period.

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