Faten Hamama is a living legend. Every decade of her life represents a new era of acting experience meanwhile re-shaping Egyptian cinema. She is known throughout the Middle East as the “First Lady of Cinema” for altering the biases the Egyptian film industry held towards women, and it is because of this that the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) awarded her with their Lifetime Achievement Award of 2009.
“Arab film lovers will forever recall the powerful performances of Faten Hamama, who has been associated with some of the all-time great movies in Egyptian cinema. She endeared herself to audiences during a time when only singers, dancers or theatre professionals were offered acting opportunities that too in minimal, poorly written roles. It is our privilege to honor such a distinguished artist and human being at DIFF”, announced the DIFF Chairman, Abdulhamid Juma.
An accomplished Egyptian producer and actress, the 77-year-old has worked in many evocative performances varying across many genres, from melodramas, to historical and comedies. However, her specialty was romantic dramas. The award was a simultaneous milestone for the DIFF as well: Faten Hamama is the first every woman recipient during the festival’s six-year history.
Faten Hamama was awarded the honor because she is a true icon of Egyptian and Middle Eastern cinema. “She highlighted the importance of women in cinema, especially in the Egyptian society, breaking several taboos in the process”, said Hannah Fisher, a coordinator of the Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Her first film, Yawm Said (Happy Day), was filmed when she was only seven years old. Faten Hamama has over 100 films under her belt prior to her self-imposed hiatus, ending in 2000 with the television mini-series, Wagh Al Qamar (Face of the Moon). Her most powerful roles, as critics say, is that in the 1959 film Duaa Al-Karawan (The Nightingale’s Prayer), where she played a young woman who seeks revenge on her uncle for killing her sister, and her role in Nahr Hob (Love River), an adaptation of Leo Tolstoi’s Anna Karenina.
She has received many awards throughout her career by the Egyptian Government as well as many special roles including Star of the Century by the Egyptian Writers and Critics Organization, Best Actress Award at Carthage International Film Festival in Tunisia in 1988, and also won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Montpelier Mediterranean Film Festival in 1993.
Hamama accepted DIFF award by thanking the people of the Gulf region, the UAE, and everyone associated with DIFF for the Award.