Dubai Film Fest Remained Glitzy, Despite Region's Economic Issues

"The Way Back" director Peter Weir, Sean Penn and Carey Mulligan were some of the celebrities who attended the event.

Despite the economic problems to have beset the region, the Dubai International Film Festival was its usual glitzy self while keeping the spotlight squarely on filmmakers from the Arab world.

And there was plenty of Hollywood flair. Sean Penn received a Lifetime Achievement Award and was one of a number of international celebrities to attend the event, including Peter Weir, Colin Farrell and Jim Sturgess for Weir’s World War II drama The Way Back. Carey Mulligan also made the trek.

Arab royalty was also on hand, with the UAE’s HH Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HH Sheikh Saeed Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum gracing the red carpet. The eight-day festival closed Sunday.

A total of $600,000 was awarded in prize money in the festival’s Muhr Emirati, Muhr Arab and Muhr AsiaAfrica categories. There was plenty of industry activity, with representatives from Sony Pictures to the Weinstein Co. making it to Dubai, which hosted a film market, a series of seminars and a co-producers platform.

This year’s figures have yet to be tabulated, but more than 130 films were sold at the 2009 market with deals valued at about $2.2 million.

This year, the Muhr Award for best Arab feature went to Morocco’s Xavier Castro for his drama Pegasus. Bushra took home the best actress award for Egypt’s 678, and the best actor award went to her co-star Maged El Kidwaany. The special jury prize went to Mohammed Al Hushki for the Jordanian film, Transit Cities. In all, some 157 films unspooled from 57 countries.

For the first time, DIFF presented the Muhr Emirati Awards for excellence in filmmaking to UAE filmmakers. Fourteen films made by UAE nationals competed. The first prize went to Nayla Al Khaja for Bored.

“At DIFF 2010, we sampled the best cinema from around the world with a particular emphasis on work from the Arab world, Asia and Africa,” DIFF’s artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said. “All three of our competitions were outstanding this year, and one of our greatest challenges was to whittle the entries down to an initial shortlist.”

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