Four filmmakers from the region will vie for a Dh367,000 film grant to be awarded by Hollywood star Cate Blanchett at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival (Diff).
Emirati directors Abdullah Al Ka’abi and Ali Mustafa will pitch their upcoming film projects against Bahrain’s Mohammad Rashid Bu Ali and London-based Iraqi director Maysoon Pachachi for the newly introduced IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award.
Australian actress Blanchett, known for her roles as Queen Elizabeth I and Katharine Hepburn, will head the jury along with Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, Abdul Hamid Juma, chairman of Diff, Masoud Amralla Al Ali, artistic director of Diff and Olivier Père, general director of the Paris-based Arte France Cinema.
“It’s fantastic [to be shortlisted]. To be associated with IWC, which is a very prestigious brand, is an honour. It’s also an added value for me because that’s where I want to position my film,” Al Ka’abi told tabloid!
The 25-year-old director, whose debut short film The Philosopher starring acclaimed actor Jean Reno premiered at Diff 2010, is currently developing his first feature-length film. Scripted by Spanish writers Félix Sabroso and Dunia Ayaso, the Arabic film, currently titled ‘Girls in the Know’, will be targeted at an international audience, he said, adding that he is currently location scouting.
Bu Ali, who has eight short films to his credit, will also be making his first feature film. The award, he said, is great news for filmmakers in the GCC.
“It’s come at the right time. It’s something filmmakers have been wishing for a long time and I would like to thank IWC for bringing this to us,” he said.
Bu Ali’s film, with the working title The Sleeping Tree, is a drama based in Bahrain, and which will be shot there.
“It is the story of a marriage broken by a critical illness, a film about hope and despair of a family intertwined with their heritage and surroundings,” Bu Ali wrote in a note.
The winner of the award will be announced at an awards ceremony at The One & Only, Royal Mirage in Dubai during Diff.
“We have been overwhelmed with the quality of submissions from a dynamic group of filmmakers who have recognised this incredible opportunity made possible by IWC to help them achieve the ultimate — bringing their script to screen,” said Diff chairman Juma in a statement. “The GCC continues to be a region rich with filmmaking potential, and the talented filmmakers we have selected this year embody it. On behalf of the Gulf’s filmmaking community, we are very grateful to IWC for their support and we look forward to continuing The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award for years to come.”
Diff runs from December 9-16, 2012.