Cannes Film Fest 2021: Critics Week Kudos–Egyptian Film Top Winner

Cannes Critics Week

Egyptian Omar El Zohairy’s serio-comedy Feathers won the Nespresso Grand Prize at Critics’ Week, the Cannes Film Festival’s series dedicated exclusively to first and/or second films.

The 2021 program, which marks the sidebar’s 60th edition, featured 13 world premieres.  The smallest series in Cannes is also the most selective: The seven films in competition were chosen from over 1,000 films by artistic director Charles Tesson and his committee.

Set in contemporary Egypt, Feathers, which represents El Zohairy’s impressive debut feature. relates the journey of a wife and mother of three children whose husband is turned into a chicken by a magician.

El Zohairy used over 30 real chickens in the production with the assistance of an animal trainer.


The film is a co-production between France, Egypt, The Netherlands, and Greece and received support from numerous international institutions and funds during its different production phases.

Marking his feature debut, Omar El Zohairy co-wrote Feathers with Ahmed Amer.

Feathers: First-ever Egyptian Feature in the International Critics Week, Cannes 2021

The film is produced by the French producers Juliette Lepoutre and Pierre Menahem (Still Moving), Co-produced by Mohamed Hezy (Film Clinic) and Shahinaz El Akkad (Lagoonie Film Production); Derk-Jan Warrink and Koji Nelissen (Kepler Film) and Giorgos Karnavas and Konstantinos Kontovrakis (Heretic) and Verona Meier.

Film Clinic Indie Distribution handles MENA region distribution rights.

The film was developed with the Baumi Award, Torino Film Lab, and Cinéfondation and received a Post-production Award at the Atlas Workshop of the Marrakech International Film Festival and the Dutch post-production award.

The film follows a passive mother, stuck in repetitive and mundane chores, who dedicates all of her time and energy to her husband and children.

When a magic trick goes wrong at her 4-year-old son’s birthday party of her youngest son, various coincidental absurdities befalls the family. The magician turns her husband, a rigid authoritarian father, into a chicken.

As a result, the mother is forced to become a leader and take care of the family, while at the same time moving heaven and earth to bring her husband back. As she tries to survive, she too goes through rough and absurd transformation.

Omar El Zohairy studied at the Cairo Cinema Institute and worked as an assistant director alongside Egypt’s most prominent directors, including Yousry Nasrallah and Youssef Chahine.

His first short film, “Breathe Out,” won the Jury Special Mention Prize at the Dubai International Film Festival.

His second short, “The Aftermath of The Inauguration of The Public Toilet at Kilometer 375,” was the first Egyptian film to be selected for the Cannes Cinefondation at The Cannes Festival.

The Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award went to Sandra Melissa Torres for her performance in Simón Mesa Soto’s Amparo, about a working-class mother desperately attempting to save her son  from military conscription in Colombia.

The Grand Prize and Rising Star awards were given by the jury which was presided over by the Romanian Palme d’Or winning director Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) .

Olga won the SACD Award which went to the movie’s screenwriters, Elie Grappe and Raphaëlle Desplechin. The film explores the world of a competitive gymnast in the Ukraine.

Zero Fucks Given, which tackles the subject of loneliness and is directed by Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre, won the Gan Foundation Award for distribution. The award was given to the distribution banner Condor.

The sidebar is closing with Leyla Bouzid’s A Tale of Love and Desire. The story follows a French-Algerian man, who grew up in the suburbs of Paris and meets in college Farah, a free-spirited young Tunisian girl, a fateful meeting that changes his life.