First Annual Muhr Awards Recognizes Top Arab Talent

Mon Dec 18,2006

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) awarded its inaugural Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema last at a glittering awards ceremony at Al Sahra Desert Resort.

‘Muhr’ is Arabic for ‘young horse,’ and the design of the award statuettes, a horse’s head, reflects the Arabian and Emirati cultural heritage.

The first awards category presented was the UAE Film Awards, designed to recognize two top Emirati screenwriters and one filmmaker selected for overall talent. Khalid Al Budoor, prominent author, TV presenter and screenwriter, took the stage to announce the winners: for short film scripts, first prize and AED 50 000 went to Mohammed Hassan Ahmed for the film Timbak, second prize (AED 40 000) to Yousef Ibrahim for Yatina, and third prize (30 000) to Ahmed Salmeen for Al Garsha (the Bottle). Walid Al Shehhi won for most promising overall filmmaker, taking AED 50 000 in prize money.

The next categories to be awarded were short film and documentaries, presented by Lebanese producer and director Mohammed Soueid and Syrian filmmaker Nabil el Maleh, himself a recipient of the DIFF Salutes trophy for lifetime cinematic achievement.

The Gold Muhr, and USD 30 000, went to Shereen Diabes of Palestine for her film Make a Wish, Silver (USD 20 000) went to Anis Laswad from Tunis for Magic Crop, and Bronze (USD 10 000) went to Sameh Zobi from Palestine for Be Quiet.

In the Documentary section, the Gold statuette (and USD 40 000) went to VSH Kahlusha, by Najeeb Bilkawi from Tunisia; Silver (USD 30 000) was won by Khadija Al Salami from Yemen, for her film Amina; and Bronze (USD 20 000) went to I’m the One Who Carries Flowers to her Grave by Hala Al Abdullah and Amar al Beik of Syria.

The feature film awards were announced by filmmaker and narrative features jury head Rida Behi, and given to recipients by none other than Oliver Stone, the acclaimed Hollywood director of World Trade Centre, which screened at DIFF 2006.

Jamila Sahrawi from Algeria took the Gold Muhr (USD 50 000) for her feature Barakat! The Silver prize (USD 40 000) went to the film Falafel by Michel Kammoun from Lebanon, and Bronze (USD 30 000) went to Hakim bil Abbas for Why O’Sea?

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, Director of the Civil Aviation Authority and President of Emirates Group, then took the stage to present the DIFF Salutes awards to Nabil Maleh and Oliver Stone, recognizing their outstanding contributions to world cinema.

Shah Rukh Khan, the third DIFF Salutes honouree, was unable to attend the ceremony and received his award at a special ceremony during the festival.

Abdulhamid Juma, Chairman of DIFF, then introduced the esteemed members of the jury, all key industry figures from the Arab World, North America, Asia and Europe.

Mr. Juma stated, “The Muhr Awards is an initiative we can build on in the years to come, and an excellent tool for us to stimulate filmmaking in the region. We are very proud of our first recipients, and of our jury—theirs was not an easy decision to make. The caliber and scope of the filmmaking talent in the competition was truly of the best.”

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