A heartfelt film about a young Saudi girl who yearns to ride a bicycle has won the top prize at the ninth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival . ‘Wadjda’, by Saudi Arabia’s first woman director, Haifa Al Mansoor, walked away with the $50,000 Best Arab Feature prize, while the film’s young protagonist Waad Mohammed won Best Actress.
“What an unbelievable experience,” said an emotional Haifa, who walked up to the stage with little Waad to receive her prize, before the curtains came down on the eight-day festival at the Madinat Jumeirah on Sunday.
Other top winners of the night included Emirati director Juma Al Sahli, whose experimental film,  The Goat’s Head won the $50,000 Best Film in the Muhr Emirati category and director Abdullah Al Junaibi who won $25,000 Best Director in the same category. Palestinian film ‘Infiltrators’walked away with two honours: Muhr Arab Documentary Special Jury Prize and FIPRESCI Best Documentary Director for .Khaled Jarrar.
Another film to win two prizes was ‘Inside’ from Turkish director Zeki Demirkubuz, which won Muhr AsiaAfrica Best Feature Film and the Muhr AsiaAfrica Best Actor for Engin Günaydın.
Prizes worth more than $570,000 were given to multiple Documentary, Feature and Short films under the broad Emirati, AsiaAfrica and Arab categories.
During the festival, which kicked off on December 9, celebrities stripped off for charity, the Hollywood elite partied under the stars and film makers from across the Middle East had their first taste of the world of movies.
The weather threatened to spoil a few nights of celebrations but apart from a few drops of rain, held off until guests were either safe inside theatres or tucked up in bed.
On Friday, Colin Firth, Freida Pinto, Kristin Davis of ‘Sex And The City’ fame, Rooney Mara and Arab star Amr Waked stole the show at a charity dinner in association with the festival in support of Oxfam and Dubai Cares.
Against the backdrop of a towering Burj Khalifa where the magnificent fountains at Armani Hotel Dubai lived up to their reputation, the stars joined forces and raised a whopping $542,000 (Dh1,990,386) in less than three hours of relentless, but highly entertaining bidding. The evening saw Firth impulsively auction off his Paul Smith “guilt-free” organic tuxedo and Pinto tease the bidders to unzip their wallets to take home the strapless red Valentino gown she was wearing on the night.
“Come on guys, make me happy… I will give you the gown after I slip into my pajamas,” joked Pinto and it eventually went for $18,000.
Bollywood was represented by the likes of Malaika Arora Khan and designer Vikram Phadnis and Khan managed to raise $18,000 for an oil on canvas painting Lute Player and Horse in green by Iran’s Nasser Ovissi. “Hello Dubai, I am so impressed with Dubai’s generosity. A big thank you. This painting will look great in your living room,” said Arora Khan with a flourish.
Academy award-winner Firth, accompanied by his fashion entrepreneur wife Livia, was chatty on the red carpet. “I don’t know if I have changed lives, but Oxfam has certainly changed mine. I have met people who would never have been a part of my vision through Oxfam,” he said.
Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett led the way as head of the jury for the first IWC Film Makers Awards.
On opening night, the gala screening of long-awaited film Life of Pi, Blanchett glided down the red carpet in silence. But 24 hours later, a far more dynamic and warm personality was revealed as she arrived in her role as the head of the jury at the first-time IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award. At the award ceremony at the Armani Hotel, a film grant of Dh367,000 was awarded to London-based Iraqi filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi, to make her feature Nothing Doing in Baghdad.
Other gala red carpet screenings included the international premiere of Iraqi-born director Karzan Kader, Bekas, Andrew Adamson and James Cameron’s Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away 3D, Hitchock in the Cinema of the World category and first female Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour’s feature film Wadjda.
Freej creator Mohammad Saeed Harib announced plans to direct a sports comedy in partnership with Image Nation Abu Dhabi. The Emirati director, best known for his popular 3D animated series, said he will make his debut as a feature-length film director when he starts filming the untitled project in the UAE next spring. “I have been into animation but the idea of directing a sports comedy intrigued me, said Harib. “I hope everybody starts playing soccer after watching it.”
The youngsters weren’t forgotten either and more than 1,000 children enjoyed their first red carpet experience for the Friday gala screening of Journey to the Christmas Star which was attended by famous Norwegian talent Vilde Marie Zeiner and Agnes Kittelsen.
Here is the full list of winners:
• Best Director: Abdulla Aljunaibi and Humaid Alawadi - THE PATH: UAE
• Special Jury Prize: Muna Al Ali – DURBEEN: UAE
• Best Film: Juma Al Sahli - RAAS AL GHANAM (THE GOAT’S HEAD): UAE
Muhr Asia Africa Shorts:
• Best Director: Nargiza Mamatkulova - ZHYMZHYRT (SILENCE): Kyrgyzstan
• Special Jury Prize: Taalay Kulmendeiev - ZHYMZHYRT (SILENCE): Kyrgyzstan
• Best Film: L. Rezan Yeşilbaş - SESSIZ-BE DENG (SILENT):Turkey
Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary:
• Special Mention: Sourav Sarangi - CHAR… THE NO-MAN’S ISLAND: India
• Special Mention: Mosco Kamwendo - CAMARADA PRESIDENTE (COMRADE PRESIDENT): Zimbabwe
• Best Director: Wang Bing - SAN ZIMEI (SAN ZIMEI – THREE SISTERS): France, Hong Kong
• Special Jury Prize: Mohsen Amiryoussefi, Pirooz Kalantari - KAHRIZAK, CHAHAR NEGAH (KAHRIZAK, FOUR VIEWS): Iran
• Best Film: Nishtha Jain, Torstein Grude, Signe Bryge Sorenson - GULABI GANG: India, Norway, Denmark
Muhr AsiaAfrica Feature:
• Special Mention: TELEVISION - Bangladesh
• Best Actress: Aida El-Kashef - SHIP OF THESEUS: India
• Best Actor: Engin Günaydın - YERALTI (INSIDE): Turkey
• Best Director: Kim Ki-duk –PIETA: South Korea
• Special Jury Prize: Nicholas Bruckman - VALLEY OF SAINT: India
• Best Film: Zeki Demirkubuz - YERALTI (INSIDE): Turkey
Muhr Arab Shorts:
• Best Director: Fyzal Boulifa - THE CURSE: UK
• Special Jury Prize: Ghassan Kairouz - KHALFI SHAJAR ALZAYTOUN (BEHIND ME OLIVE TREES): Lebanon
• Best Film: Murray Bartlett - NOOR: Egypt, USA
Muhr Arab Documentary:
• Special Mention: Farah Kassem - Abi Youchbeh Abdel Nasser (MY FATHER LOOKS LIKE ABDEL NASSER) - Lebanon
• Best Director: Hinde Boujemaa -YA MAN AACH (IT WAS BETTER TOMORROW): Tunis
• Special Jury Prize: Mohanad Yaqubi, Sami Said - MUTASALILUN (INFILTRATORS): Palestine, UAE
• Best Film: Khaled Kaissar - SCHILDKRÖTENWUT (THE TURTLE’S RAGE): Germany
Muhr Arab Feature:
• Special Mention: Alexandra Kahwagi - her role in ROUND TRIP - Syria, UAE, Germany, France, Egypt
• Best Actress: Waad Mohammed - WADJDA - Germany, Saudi Arabia, UAE
• Best Actor: Amr Waked - EL SHEITA ELLI FAT (WINTER OF DISCONTENT) - Egypt
• Best Director: Kamal El Mahouti - MON FRÈRE (MY BROTHER) - France, Morocco
• Special Jury Prize: Dina Farouk - HARAG W’ MARAG (CHAOS, DISORDER) - Egypt
• Best Film: Roman Paul, Gerhard Meixner - WADJDA: Germany, Saudi Arabia, UAE
The annual ‘Prize of the International Critics’ for Arab films from the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI), the world’s foremost body of film writers, academics and critics from over 60 countries, were awarded to:
• Best Documentary: Khaled Jarrar - MUTASALILUN (INFILTRATORS): Palestine, UAE
• Best Short: Amr Abdelhadi - HOMMA AAILIYA (FAMILIAL FEVER): Jordan
• Best Feature: Djamila Sahraoui – YEMA: Algeria, France, UAE