Dubai Film Fest: Cate Blanchett Dishes Out IWC Filmmaker Award

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The $100,000 prize went to UAE filmmaker Waleed Al Shehhi for his family drama "Dolphins."

DUBAI – The second day of the Dubai International Film Festival concluded on Saturday evening with the IWC Filmmaker Award and its jury, headed by Cate Blanchett. The event was a collaboration with Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen.

The award saw $100,000 presented to one of four nominated Arab film projects, as Blanchett served for the second straight year, having done so in 2012 for IWC’s inaugural event in Dubai.

"We had such a robust collection of submissions," said the actress at the red carpet opening, held away from the festival’s main center in the plush The One & Only Royal Palm resort.

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"The short list was very sophisticated, unique and diverse. It was a terribly hard decision."

The decision eventually went to UAE filmmaker Waleed Al Shehhi for his family drama Dolphins, written by local author and poet Ahmed Salmeen. The title beat out Kuwaiti project How I Got There by Zeyad Alhusaini, Hussein Al-Riffaei’s Bahraini feature Siege and U.S.-based A Reverence For Spiders, by Saudi director Faiza Ambah.

Al Shehhi said that with the funding he hoped to start work on his film early next year.

Coming just 24 hours after the 10thedition of the film festival kicked off, the IWC Filmmaker Awards welcomed many of the same faces that had graced the opening ceremony a night earlier.

Martin Sheen -- recipient of the festival’s lifetime achievement award -- provoked arguably the second biggest hail of flash bulbs after Blanchett, while Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan again hit the front of the cameras and talked about his sudden rise to stardom.

"I can’t even put into words how it feels receive such attention," he said. "I’ve been tweeting Oprah! Who gets to do that? It’s crazy."

Other notable figures in attendance included Saudi producer Mohammed Al-Turki and Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, whose thriller Omar opened the festival on Friday and is the Palestinian entry to the Academy Awards next year.

Later in the evening, following the IWC winner announcement, X-Factor U.K. runner up and million-plus-album-selling singer songwriter Rebecca Ferguson performed for the crowds.

"I think Dubai is the nicest city I’ve ever been to, apart from Liverpool," said the Liverpool-born crooner.