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Cannes: Egyptian film Feathers wins top prize at Critics' Week

The movie is about a woman's attempts to survive after her husband is turned into a chicken during a magic trick gone wrong
Feathers is Omar El Zohairy's debut feature (Screengrab/YouTube)

An Egyptian comedy drama about a woman forced to deal with the consequences of a magic trick gone wrong has bagged the top prize at the Cannes Critics’ Week.

Cannes 2021: Middle Eastern films make their mark
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In the 112-minute Arabic language film, a mother must face a new reality after her husband is turned into a chicken at a children’s birthday party, leaving her with the responsibility of earning a wage and supporting her family alone. The storyline follows her life and transformation following the event.

Egyptian director Omar El Zohairy was honoured with the Nespresso Grand Prize this week for the film Feathers, and won 15,000 euros ($17,736).

The movie was competing against Colombian film Amparo, Somali film The Gravedigger’s Wife and French film Olga among others. 

The surrealist film features a number of emerging talent and actors from Egypt, including Demyana Nassar, Samy Bassouny, Fady Mina Fawzy and Mohamed Abd El-Hady. 

'Biggest achievement'

The Egyptian director's success drew praise from public figures and celebrities.

El Zohairy graduated from Cairo’s High Institute of Cinema and worked as an assistant director on feature films, including with one of Egypt’s most prominent filmmakers, Yousri Nasrallah. 

Zohairy’s first short film Breathe Out premiered at the 8th Dubai International Film Festival and won the Muhr Special Jury Prize for Short Films.

His second short film, The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375, was the first Egyptian film to be selected for the Cinefondation competition at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to win several awards. 

Translation: Congratulations to Egypt and to Egyptian cinema and to the makers of this film and this huge achievement. This could potentially be the biggest achievement for Egyptian cinema in international film festivals. The film Feathers by the director Omar el Zohairy won the grand prize at the 60th international Critics’ Week at Cannes 

A number of Middle Eastern films have already made their mark at the Cannes Film Festival this year. 

Topping the list is two-time Iranian Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman), with his competition entry A Hero, another potboiler morality tale about an imprisoned man who embarks on a 48-hour quest to convince his creditors to withdraw their case against him. The film has already been acquired by Amazon for a US release. 

Joining him in competition is Moroccan Cannes regular Nabil Ayouch (Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets, Much Loved), with Casablanca Beats, an inspirational drama about a former rapper who takes charge of a cultural centre in a rundown neighbourhood in the titular city and changes the fate of its young members through hip-hop.

The Cannes Film Festival continues until 17 July.