A Lebanese chamber drama set against the backdrop of the Civil War has won best Arabic film on Sunday at the seventh Dubai International Film Festival.
George Hachem’s debut feature examines the impact of the war on two Christian families. “Bullet,” which stars “Caramel” director Nadine Labaki, continues its successful streak having won the best Arabic script award at the Cairo International Film Festival a fortnight ago.
Egypt was the big winner of the evening, garnering a whooping five awards, including best acting.
Bushra earned the best Arabic actress prize for her role as a scarred victim of sexual harassment in Mohamed Diab’s intense multi-character drama “678.” Bushra’s co-star, Maged El-Kedwany, scooped best Arabic actor for his role as an unsympathetic cop who has a change of heart.
Ahmad Abdalla’s musical docudrama “Microphone” won best editing while Marianne Khoury’s controversial “Zelal” snatched the Critics Choice Award, Fiprisci, for best documentary. Iman Kamel also won a special mention for her documentary “Nomad’s Home.”
Elsewhere in the Muhr Arab – Feature competition, Abdullatif Abdelhamid’s highly acclaimed comedy “September Rain” from Syria was disregarded by the jury, winning only the best score prize for Essam Rafea.
Morocco scored a double victory, winning best screenplay for Jilali Ferhati’s “At Dawn” and best cinematography for Mohamed Mouftakir’s psychological thriller “Pegasus.”
Mohammed Al-Hushki’s critically drubbed first feature “Transit Cities” from Jordan confounded predictions by obtaining two awards: the Special Jury Prize and the Fiprisci award for best feature film. “Cities” centers on a Jordanian immigrant returning to a changed Amman after her marriage collapses.
In the Muhr Arab – Documentary section, Mahmoud Al-Massad’s biographical documentary “This is My Picture When I was Dead” from Palestine won first prize for best documentary. The second prize was given to Soudade Kaadan’s “Damascus Roof and Tales of Paradise” from Syria. Abdallah Al-Ghoul from Palestine received a special mention for “Ticket from Azrael.”
Omar Shargawi’s unanimously praised “My Father from Haifa” from Denmark earned the Special Jury Prize. The heartfelt documentary also received the Damas People Choice Awards.
In the Muhr Asia Africa – Feature section, Mahamat Saleh-Haroun’s “A Screaming Man” from Chad swept the competition, winning best film, best actor for Youssouf Djaoro and best editing. The film, which won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Fest, revolves around a former swimming champion turned pool attendant who is forced to give up his job to his son.
Iran earned two awards: best actress for Kobra Hasanzadeh Esfahani’s performance in “Slave” and best screenplay for Mohsen Abdolvahab’s “Please Do Not Disturb.”
The Special Jury Prize was awarded to Oliver Schmitz’s popular tearjerker “Life Above All” from South Africa. South Korean director Min-ji Lee was granted a special mention for her gritty drama “End of Animal.”
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palm d’Or winner “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” from Thailand received best cinematography in the same category while Radiohead’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood was given best score for his work in Anh Hung Tran’s “Norwegian Wood.”
In the Muhr Asia Africa – Documentary competition, China’s foremost filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke won best film for “I Wish I Knew,” an expansive examination of the political, social and economic factors that changed the face of Shanghai.
John Akomfrah’s experimental Ghanaian/British production “The Nine Muses” received second prize. The conceptual piece investigates the mass migration of African and Asian migrants who flocked to Britain after the end of World War II.
Ariane Astrid Atodj from Cameroon received the Jury Prize for “Koundi and the National Thursday.” Two films were granted a special mention by the jury: Ashvin Kumar’s “Inshallah Football” from India and Shahin Parhami’s “Amin” from Iran.
In the very first Muhr Emirati competition for Emirati films, Nayla Al-Khaja’s popular short “Bored” won first prize. The entertaining comedy centers on a married couple with nothing in common attempting to work out their relationship in their honeymoon.
Khalid Al-Mahmood’s “Sabeel” won second prize. The film tells the story of two little boys selling vegetables on the road in order to save their dying grandmother.
The Special Jury Prize was given to Nujoom Alghanem’s “Hamama” while a special mention was handed to Waleed Al-Shehhi for his film “Wind.”
A total of 36 Muhr awards — and $600,000 in prize money — was handed out at the closing ceremony by the Emirati royalty and French star Isabelle Huppert.
Lebanese icon Sabah, two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn and Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cisse received the lifetime achievement award. Only Cisse was in attendance at the ceremony.
All in all, 157 films from 57 countries were screened this year, including 41 world premieres and 13 international premieres. In addition to the multitude of art-house pictures debuting at the fest, big galas were organized for a number of high-profile Hollywood films such as Joseph Kosinski’s sci-fi blockbuster “TRON: Legacy,” Tom Hooper’s Oscar hopeful “The King’s Speech” starring Colin Firth and Peter Weir’s war epic “The Way Back” starring Colin Farrell and Ed Harris.
While the Asian and African competitions offered plenty of revelations, the Arabic selection, as in all Arab film fests, was somewhat underwhelming, ending an uneventful year for Arab cinema on a sour note.
The great promise glimpsed in the short films was the saving grace of an otherwise average and disappointing showcase for Arab films.
Sheikh Said bin Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum (2nd L) hands the best actor award to Egypt’s Maged al-Kidwany. (AFP Photo/ Karim Sahib)
Chadian director Mahamat Saleh Haroun holds up the Muhr AsiaAfrica Feature Award for his movie "The Screaming Man". (AFP Photo/ Karim Sahib)
Sheikh Said bin Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum (L) hands the special international jury award to Mohammed al-Hushki for his film "Transit Cities". (AFP Photo/ Karim Sahib)
Lebanese film director George Hashem receives the best film Muhr Award for his movie "Stray Bullet". (AFP Photo/ Karim SAahib)