Middle East film fest matures in 2nd year


Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve will lend their star power to the second annual Middle East International Film Festival, which kicks off Oct. 10 with Rian Johnson's crime caper "The Brothers Bloom."

MEIFF executive director Nashwa Al Ruwaini said Wednesday that the prize fund for the event's Black Pearl Awards is nearly double last year's at $1 million. The best fiction film alone will receive $200,000.

Fonda will be honored during a special event in association with humanitarian screen fund Cinema Verite. Deneuve, Sarandon and French actress Carole Bouquet are among those expected to attend.

Al Ruwaini also announced a new industry initiative, Muslims on Screen and Television, which will provide information on Islam and Muslims for the U.S. entertainment community.

There are several additions to the 2008 lineup, including 16 hours of documentaries about the 60-year division of Palestine and a section dedicated to films about the environment. The slate features entries from more than 35 countries, including one from the UAE: "Henna," directed by Saleh Karama.

The fest will close Oct. 19 with Ridley Scott's terrorist thriller "Body of Lies," set in Jordan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. (partialdiff)