Six filmmakers win Dubai festival awards

Film Connection jury hands out $25,000 prizes

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DUBAI -- Prizes totaling about $118,255 were given to six Arab filmmakers at the Dubai International Film Festival on Tuesday as the Film Connection jury chose the winners from a field of 21 competing for deals with global film funds, sales companies and distributors.

Three DIFF Prizes of $25,000 each were awarded to the documentary "This Is My Picture When I Was Dead," by Jordanian filmmaker Mahmoud Al Massad; "Barbershop Trinity," a tragicomedy from Lebanese director Chadi Zeineddine; and "Ourdia Once Had Sons" from Algerian director Djamila Sahraoui.

"I am so happy that everybody wants to be involved in my film," Zeinddine said at the awards ceremony at the Al-Qasr hotel, adding that the prize brought him 45% of the budget for the film he plans to shoot in April in Jordan.

Each of the three DIFF Prize honorees also wins automatic entry into the Producers Network at the 2009 Festival de Cannes.

DFC organizer and DIFF Industry Office head Jane Williams said that 5-10 of the finalists had piqued the interest of sales companies and distributors.

"It was clear that the jurors felt very strongly about the films," she said of the winners.

DFC juror and first-time Dubai visitor Tony Cianciotta, head of Toronto-based T.C. Film Marketing & Distribution, said he was impressed by all the finalists, whose utilization of levity in dealing with subjects of adversity remind him of the neo-realist films he grew up with in the 1950s and '60s.

"The quality of the films was far superior to any group of films that I have seen in a long while," he said. "There's a whole new crop of filmmakers in transition. What's funny, and I know this sounds cliche, is that the more things change, the more they stay the same."

One of DIFF's two new prizes, the Work in Progress Award of $25,000, from Kuwati company Desert Door, went to "Every Day Is a Holiday," the French, Lebanese and German co-production by Dima El-Horr. Producer Thierry Lenouvel said that the film was in the second week of editing in Paris and he was thrilled to get the money.

"We came to Dubai with the script for our film last year and were surprised and honored to be invited back," Lenouvel said.

"When I Saw You," by Annemarie Jacir, from Palestine and Jordan, won the $10,000 Bahrain Film Production Company Award for projects in development, while "Death for Sale," by Morroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi, won the 6,000 euro ($8,255) prize from ARTE in France.
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