Dubai Film Festival's Best Arab Film Goes to Haifaa al Mansour's 'Wadjda'

Dubai Film Fest Muhr Award Winners

The ninth edition of the festival also handed out a $600,000 prize purse across a movies from Arab, Asian and African countries.

Abdulla Aljunaibi and Humaid Alawadi's The Path walked away with this year's Muhr Emirati prize, one of the top awards dished out at the close of the Dubai International Film Festival Sunday evening (Dec. 16).

In the Muhr Emirati section, Muna Al Ali was awarded the special jury prize while The Goat's Head (Raas Al Ghanam), directed by Juma Al Sahli secured the best film award at the festival's closing ceremony and prize giving.

The festival, which dishes out more than $600,000 in prize money to filmmakers from the Arab region and beyond, marking it out as one of the world's most extravagant prize-giving events, also handed out its Muhr Arab feature category prizes.

Alexandra Kahwagi got a special mention for her role in Round Trip, a Syria, UAE, Germany, France and Egypt co-production in the Arab feature category.

The best actress plaudit went to Waad Mohammed for her turn in Wadjda, the German, Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates backed movie directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female film director, Haifaa al Mansour.

Mansour's film also secured the best Muhr Arab feature crown.

The evening's Arab feature best actor nod went to Amr Waked for his role in the Egyptian feature Winter of Discontent (El Sheita Elli Fat) while Kamal El Mahouti won best director for My Brother (Mon Frere), a French Moroccan backed picture.

The curtain came down Sunday Dec. 16 on the ninth edition of Dubai's festival, with organizers claiming a 30 percent uptick in industry attendance and 400 hours of programming showcased in over 1,323 screenings.

158 films unspooled during the event, which opened with Oscar winner Ang Lee's Life of Pi.

Organizers also noted that this year booked 370 professional meetings as part of Dubai Film Connection, with 55 individual banners repped, compared to 270 last year.

The ninth Dubai International Film Festival, held under the patronage of UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, screened films from 60 countries across 43 languages.

DIFF chairman Abdulhamid Juma said, "In the past eight days we have not only screened 158 films but offered networking platforms to over 1,700 industry professionals, showcased 330 films in our Filmmart (60 percent increase versus 200 last year), hosted 24 forums and workshop for the filmmakers of the future, awarded thousands of dollars to worthy filmmakers and welcomed a host of international and regional talent to Dubai."

Juma, thanking Al Maktoum's patronage and the event's numerous sponsors, said he thought the Muhr Awards "capped off a stellar ninth season and this success really sets the stage for the amazing program we will have in store for the festival's monumental 10th edition in 2013."

Earlier, DIFF honored industry stalwarts Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, the veteran Egyptian actor, and renowned British director Michael Apted, with lifetime achievement awards.

As one of the most lucrative filmmaker competitions in the world, the Muhr Awards were established in 2006 to honor filmmakers from the Arab world, and were expanded to include the AsiaAfrica competition in 2007.

This year 83 films competed for the $600,000 plus prize purse.

DIFF artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said: "The field this year was incredibly strong, and our juries had a very difficult time selecting the finalists. We at DIFF are proud to announce this year's winners and look forward to following their illustrious careers for years to come.”

A full list of awards can be found on the Dubai Film Festival website.