DUBAI // Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad had an ecstatic crowd on their feet at the Dubai International Film Festival’s Muhr Award ceremony on Friday night.
Rubber-stamping the festival programmer’s decision to open the 10th annual event with the highly anticipated Arab movie Omar, Abu Assad picked up Best Director and the film’s producer, Waleed Zuaiter, took Best Film.
A fitting tribute to the progress of filmmaking across the Arab world, the Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker said he was “thrilled” to have opened and closed the festival.
“It is beyond what I could have expected,” he said. “But I am utterly thrilled with everything that is happening right now.”
Stars of the Arab world walked the red carpet before the prestigious awards ceremony began at the Madinat Arena theatre.
Other notable award winners, who each scooped a portion of a total prize fund of US$575,000 (Dh2.1 million), included Mohamed Khan’s Factory Girl, Lebanon’s Zeina Daccache for Scheherazade’s Diary and Ritesh Batra’s indie-feature The Lunchbox.
Khan, a prominent Egyptian director, collected the FIPRESCI award for Arab Feature while Best Actress went to Yasmine Raees for her role as leading lady in the Egyptian and UAE collaboration.
The FIPRESCI Arab Documentary went to Daccache for Scheherazade’s Diary and she also scooped a Special Mention prize in the Muhr Arab Documentary category.
The much-anticipated and one-time Oscar hopeful for India, The Lunchbox, was a hit, winning feature film debutant Ritesh Batra a Special Mention in the Muhr Asia/Africa Feature category, as well as Best Actor for Bollywood heavyweight Irrfan Khan.
The Muhr Asia/Africa Feature category’s Best Film award went to Ilo Ilo by director and producer Anthony Chen and producers Ang Hwee Sim and Wahyuni A Hadi. Best Actress in this category went to Singapore’s Yeo Yann Yann.
Jim Sheridan, president of the jury responsible for selecting winning film Omar, among others, said his experience at DIFF was something he would hold in his heart forever.
“It was fantastic being here,” he said. “The festival director and crew run a wonderful festival, which has impressed in every way. We were treated like royalty and, to be honest, I don’t want to leave.
“I never believed the stories of the mirage in the desert until I came to Dubai. I feel privileged to have had the chance to see through a window into a culture that is more open to the world than most realise.”
The Muhr Award entries have gone from strength to strength, with more than 3,500 submissions across the three categories – Emirati, Arab and Asia/Africa – this year.
In the Muhr Emirati section, Best Film was picked up by Abdullah Hasan Ahmed and Khalid Al Mahmood for La Tkhaleeny (Don’t Leave Me); Best Director went to Muna Al Ali for her 10-minute movie Concealment; the Special Jury Prize to producers Claudia Corbelli and Greg White for Al Jaara (The Neighbour), which had a script written by Nayla Al Khaja; and a Special Mention was given to Mohammad Fikree for the animated 40-minute movie Girl and It.
Earlier this week the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science, the organisation behind the annual Academy Awards, or Oscars, announced DIFF had been selected as a qualifying festival for the short film category.
This was welcome news for filmmakers Bavi Yassi and Nore Maatala, for The Lost Voice, and Askhat Kuchinchirekov, for Gas Is Over, the winners in the Muhr Arab Short and Asia/Africa Short categories, respectively.
Shekhar Kapur, president of the Muhr Asia/Africa Features jury, said he was “proud” to have been a part of such an industry-changing festival.
“I hope as the Arab and Asia cultures come together, we appreciate what these filmmakers are doing even more,” he said. “This festival has the power to make the whole world understand about art and culture in this part of the world. Thank you for giving us these eight days, a collision of cultures. May DIFF continue in all its glory.”
Full list of award winners:
Emirates NBD People’s Choice Award:
Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee for FROZEN – USA
Amal Al-Agroobi for THE BRAIN THAT SINGS - UAE
FIPRESCI Short: Ahmed Yassin for ATFAL ALLAH (CHILDREN OF GOD) - Iraq, UK, Hungary
FIPRESCI Documentary: Zeina Daccache for SCHEHERAZADE’S DIARY - Lebanon
FIPRESCI Feature: Mohammed Khan for FATAT EL MASNAA (FACTORY GIRL) - Egypt, UAE
Special Mention: Mohammad Fikree for GIRL & IT - UAE
Best Director: Muna Al Ali for CONCEALMENT - UAE
Special Jury Prize: Claudia Corbelli and Greg White for AL JAARA (THE NEIGHBOUR) - UAE
Best Film: Abdullah Hasan Ahmed and Khalid Al Mahmood for LA TKHALEENY (DON’T LEAVE ME) - UAE
Muhr AsiaAfrica Short:
Special Mention: Cédric Ido for TWAAGA - Burkina Faso, France
Best Director: Sandeep Ray for SHIRNO BAHU (THIN ARMS) - India
Special Jury Prize: Halla Kim for THE WAY BACK - South Korea
Best Film: Askhat Kuchinchirekov for BENZIN BITTI (GAS IS OVER) - Kazakhstan
Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary:
Special Mention: Lynn Lee and James Leong for WUKAN: MINZU ZHI GUANG (WUKAN: THE FLAME OF DEMOCRACY) - Singapore
Best Director: Pin Pin Tan for TO SINGAPORE, WITH LOVE - Singapore
Special Jury Prize: Sara Rastegar for MES SOULIERS ROUGES (MY RED SHOES) - France
Best Film: Yoshiko Hashimoto and Shigeki Kinoshita for MATSURI NO UMA (THE HORSES OF FUKUSHIMA) - Japan
Muhr AsiaAfrica Feature:
Special Mention: Souleymane Démé for his role in GRIGRIS - France, Chad
Special Mention: Ritesh Batra for the screenplay of DABBA (THE LUNCHBOX) - France, Germany, India
Best Actress: Yeo Yann Yann for ILO ILO - Singapore
Best Actor: Irrfan Khan for DABBA (THE LUNCHBOX) - France, Germany, India
Best Director: Tsai Ming Liang for JIAO YOU (STRAY DOGS) - Taiwan, France
Special Jury Prize: Sepehr Seifi for MAHI VA GORBEH (FISH & CAT) - Iran
Best Film: Ang Hwee Sim, Anthony Chen, Wahyuni A. Hadi For ILO ILO - Singapore
Muhr Arab Short:
Special Mention: Camille Salameh for his role in AKAR (TROUBLED WATERS) - Lebanon
Special Mention: Ahmed Yassin for ATFAL ALLAH (CHILDREN OF GOD) - Iraq, UK, Hungary
Best Director: Ali Cherri for THE DISQUIET - Lebanon, France
Special Jury Prize: Haider Rashid for THE DEEP - Iraq, Italy
Best Film: Bavi Yassin, Nore Maatala for DE VERLOREN STEM (THE LOST VOICE) - Belgium, Iraq
Muhr Arab Documentary:
Special Mention: Zeina Daccache for SCHEHERAZADE’S DIARY - Lebanon
Best Director: Salma El Tarzi for ELE BEHEB RABENA ERFAA EDOH LEFOOK (UNDERGROUND ON THE SURFACE) - Egypt
Special Jury Prize: Diala Kachmar and Carole Abboud for GUARDIANS OF TIME LOST - Lebanon, UAE
Best Film: Karim Amer for AL MIDAN (THE SQUARE) - USA, Egypt
Muhr Arab Feature:
Special Mention: Mohammed Amin Benamraoui for WADAAN CARMEN (ADIOS CARMEN) - Morocco, Belgium, UAE
Special Mention: Raouia for her roles in ROCK THE CASBAH - Morocco, France and SARIROU AL ASSRAR (PILLOW SECRETS) - Morocco, Qatar
Best Actress: Yasmine Raees for FATAT EL MASNAA (FACTORY GIRL) - Egypt, UAE
Best Actor: Hassan Badida for C’EST EUX LES CHIENS (THEY ARE THE DOGS) - Morocco
Best Director: Hany Abu Assad for OMAR - Palestine, UAE
Special Jury Prize: Nabil Ayouch for C’EST EUX LES CHIENS (THEY ARE THE DOGS) - Morocco
Best Film: Waleed Zuaiter for OMAR - Palestine, UAE.