Lebanese director Mounia Akl has won the Netpac award at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival for her debut feature Costa Brava, Lebanon.
The film, which stars Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki and Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, premiered at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year.
"Thank you so much Toronto for this award. It really means a lot to me and the team. I just came back from Toronto and the screening was so magical; the audience was so alive and receptive and I left really moved," Akl said in a recorded video message.
"I really feel Toronto has been so kind to me and my work so it really meant a lot to me to be there again."
Costa Brava, Lebanon follows the story of the Badri family, led by Soraya (played by Labaki) and Walid (played by Bakri), who have escaped the toxic pollution of Beirut to set up a new home in the mountains, only to find the government has turned the land next to their new home into a dump site.
In a previous interview with The National, Akl said production faced many hardships.
"Making a film in Lebanon in 2020 really felt like we were swimming against the current," she said.
After the production had been greenlit, the next day a huge explosion ripped through the city of Beirut, killing at least 190 people.
“In a split second, our lives changed. Suddenly I was going from doing a creative meeting with the team at the office to looking for team members in the rubble," Akl said.
However, her perseverance and hard work despite the tragedy has paid off, and Costa Brava, Lebanon will next be screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October.
The Netpac award is an annual award presented by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema to the best film from Asia that has premiered at Tiff.
Last year, the award was won by Palestinian twin brothers Tarzan and Arab Nasser for Gaza Mon Amour.