Riyadh's Joy Awards 2023: Highlights include wins for Sofia Vergara and Amitabh Bachchan

The annual event honours the best efforts from the Arab film, music and television industry

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Back bigger and better, the Joy Awards has cemented its status as the Arab entertainment industry's night of nights.

This year's event was held at The Boulevard Riyadh on Saturday night, with a galaxy of regional and international stars walking the lavender carpet towards Baker Al Sheddi Theatre to celebrate the best in Arabic music, film, television and cinema.

Organised by Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority and broadcast live on MBC channels and streaming platform Shahid, the epic, three-hour event had more than 20 artists awarded for some of their latest works.

Tribute awards were also on offer to regional veterans of the screen and stage.

Hollywood star power was to be found with actors Mel Gibson and Sofia Vergara, as well as director Michael Bay, who were feted during the ceremony.

The region’s love for Bollywood cinema was also represented via actor Amitabh Bachchan receiving a lifetime achievement award for his storied career.

Amid all that fun and glamour, there were also some fiercely contested categories with results — decided by the public through online votes — to inspire enough debate to last until next year's ceremony.

Here are 10 of the key moments from the 2023 Joy Awards.

1. Surprise winners among the women

The major music categories threw up some big surprises for the region's female artists.

Despite releasing one of her career-best singles and entering the US Billboard charts this year, Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram found no joy with the track Sah Sah, missing out on the Favourite Song Award to Shokran by Syrian star Assala.

The fact the gender-neutral award was dominated by women, however, is an indication of how they continue to lead the Arabic pop music world, with works far more diverse and rewarding than the conservative approach of their male counterparts.

A bigger shock arrived when Egyptian singer Angham scooped the Most Favourite Female Artist Award, beating other powerhouse nominees including Elissa, Ajram and Assala.

"Today is a beautiful day," she said at the podium. "I am in a country that I love and which is full of family, friends and fans who love me. I really can't thank them enough."

2. Young artists left in the cold

Abdul Majeed Abdullah won the Most Favourite Male Artist from a field of other veteran stars including fellow Saudi crooner Rashed Al Majid, Egypt's Amr Diab and Iraq's Majid Almohandis.

Today’s generation of pop stars were not recognised in the category, despite young artists such as Wegz and Muslim dominating social media and streaming platforms.

Their snub from the nominees field could beg the question of whether the award is indeed representative of today's regional music scene.

3. Kira & El Gin sweep the film categories

Unsurprisingly, the Egyptian blockbuster hit Kira & El Gin scooped the major film prizes.

The period action-adventure film, set in 20th-century Egypt under British occupation, won the Favourite Movie gong and landed stars Ahmed Ezz and Hend Sabri the Favourite Actor and Actress trophies respectively.

4. Saudi and Lebanese television dramas shine

Second time's a charm for Salon Zahra. The acclaimed Lebanese drama's second season picked up the prestigious Favourite TV Series Award.

Star Nadine Nassib Njeim also picked up the Favourite Actress Award for playing the titular role of a fierce businesswoman who turned her beauty parlour into a haven for women seeking refuge from the daily grind.

"From the day I started my journey in my career I always believed that hard work and kind nature will be rewarded," she said in her acceptance speech.

"If you focus on work and realise that success will one day come to you, and another day to others, then you will have peace of mind and have greater confidence in yourself.”

Saudi actor Ibrahim Al Hajjaj won Favourite Actor for his work on the Saudi drama Minho Waladna?.

5. Hollywood titans Mel Gibson and Michael Bay awarded

Two of Hollywood’s most bankable talents received Lifetime Achievement awards, dubbed Honorary Entertainment Makers, in Riyadh and provided sage advice for regional colleagues in the audience.

American-Australian actor Mel Gibson said success in show business is best measured in longevity.

Gibson recalled a childhood incident where he survived a minor car accident by landing on his feet.

“I remembered while I was flying in the air that I had to land well,” he said. "I like to keep that advice in my career in that the only thing I have to be is not boring. So long as I land well, I am happy."

US director Michael Bay, who has shot plenty of blockbusters, including 2001’s Pearl Harbour, 2001’s Armageddon and 2019’s 6 Underground (the latter partly filmed in Abu Dhabi), says he is driven by a need to entertain the masses.

"As a kid, I wanted to dream for a living. I watched movies on the big screen with my parents in Hollywood and I remembered how the movies would glow on my dad's face and how they made him laugh in the theatre," he said.

"I became determined that I wanted to entertain people and transport them into another world and make them smile, laugh, cry and feel exhilarated with my films.”

6. A Bollywood king was saluted

The Joy Awards continues to acknowledge some of the Indian film industry’s most influential personalities.

With past awards honouring Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, this year it was the turn of arguably the industry's most recognised name: Amitabh Bachchan.

The actor, 80, was acknowledged for his career, which spans more than 60 years, and for being a global ambassador for the vibrant Bollywood film industry.

In his acceptance speech, Bachchan describes it as a responsibility he takes seriously. "Cinema is a medium that brings people together and that integrates human society," he said.

"We come from all walks of life and parts of the world but when we sit in a darkened hall to watch a film, laugh at the same jokes, cry at the same emotions and sing the same songs, there are very few institutions in this world that can boast this kind of integration.”

Bachchan finished his address by recalling a poignant exchange with his father, who in his last years spent each evening watching a movie.

"I asked him once, what is it that you find so interesting in cinema and why do you see these films every evening?" Bachchan said.

"And he told me, 'I get to see poetic justice in three hours, while you and I will not get poetic justice in a lifetime.' That is the power of cinema."

7. Latin star power in the house

Sofia Vergara accepts her trophy at the 2023 Joy Awards in Riyadh. Photo: MBC

The irrepressible Sofia Vergara also received one the night's biggest honours, winning the Personality of the Year Award.

Since 2020, the Colombian-American has transitioned smoothly from her starring role in the hit sitcom Modern Family to being a judge on America's Got Talent.

"This is really a very beautiful surprise for me," she said. "I would like to dedicate this award to all the amazing ladies in the kingdom and the Middle East for building a better future for all women.

“Your dreams will come true if you use your two most important things: your mind and your culture."

Spanish actress Esther Acebo was also awarded for her role as thief Stockholm in the Netflix crime series Money Heist.

"But there is this strange, funny thing that people are asking me if I will steal something here,” she quipped. “I promise you, I don't steal usually, but if you keep saying this, next time I will."

8. Diverse musical performances

The Joy Awards featured a number of notable and eclectic musical performances, in addition to a new collaboration.

Nigeria’s Rema teamed up with Saudi singer Dalia Mubarak for a bilingual version of his global hit Calm Down.

The best of modern Arabic balladry was showcased by Marwan Khoury, while Ajram delivered a stomping take on Sah Sah.

Egyptian rock group Cairokee were also on hand for an energetic version of fan-favourite Kan Lak Maaya.

9. Screen and stage couples honoured

Last year's ceremony featured the celebration of the careers and lives of late Egyptian actors Samir Ghanem and Dalal Abdel Aziz.

This year, the Joy Awards honoured Ahmed Helmy and Mona Zaki, the married couple whose respective careers have taken on comedies and dramatic films.

Also honoured were Souad Abdullah and Hayat Al Fahad, the Kuwaiti duo whose joint and solo work spanned the screen and stage for nearly four decades.

10. Football’s most-loved mother and son duo

Sporting excellence was also noted in the ceremony.

Football star and new Al Nassr player Cristiano Ronaldo made an appearance by video wishing the nominees all the best, before Moroccan player Achraf Hakimi was awarded Best Sportsman for his heroics during the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

In a heart-warming gesture, he picked up the trophy alongside his biggest supporter and mother, Sadia Mouth.

Updated: January 24, 2023, 10:29 AM