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Egypt's ‘Eissa’ debuts at Cannes with spotlight on Africa’s refugee community

Egyptian critics and activists praised "I Promise You Paradise," a short film directed by Egyptian director Morad Mostafa, highlighting untold stories of immigrants living in Egypt, with a focus on African refugees.
Pictured in this undated photo is Egyptian director Morad Mostafa.

CAIRO — Award-winning Egyptian director Morad Mostafa's short film “Eissa” (“I Promise You Paradise”) was selected to compete in the 62nd Semaine de la Critique (Critics’ Week) at the 76th Cannes Film Festival.

The film, directed and written by Mostafa and Sawsan Yusuf, follows the story of Eissa, a 17-year-old African immigrant in Egypt who strives to beat the clock to save his loved ones after a violent incident occurs in Cairo.

Critics’ Week artistic director Ava Cahen unveiled the lineup for the short film competition, with 10 films slated to run beginning Wednesday. In a statement posted on the Critics’ Week website, Cahen introduced the Egyptian film: “A freedom — in its many forms, freedom to love, to come and go and to exist even — is at the very core of the intense and yet contemplative quest of the protagonist in Morad Mostafa’s ‘I Promise You Paradise.’”

The film features Kenyi Marcellino, an 18-year-old South Sudanese actor who, like thousands of others, fled the violence in his country to find refuge in Egypt. When he arrived in Egypt in 2021, Marcellino pursued his dream of becoming an actor by creating a Facebook page titled “Actors on the Stage Comedy Crew,” which posts comedy videos with fellow actor friends displaying their talents.

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