Director to receive Middle East filmmaker prize

LONDON — Palestinian director Elia Suleiman will receive Variety’s annual Middle East filmmaker of the year award at Abu Dhabi’s Middle East Film Festival in October.

Suleiman is recognized for his body of work, which includes the loosely autobiographical trilogy about Palestinian dispossession — “Chronicle of a Disappearance” in 1996, “Divine Intervention” in 2002 and this year’s “The Time That Remains.”

Suleiman won the Cannes jury prize for “Divine Intervention,” while “The Time That Remains” received strong critical notices after its world preem at Cannes.

Unveiling the honor and the fest’s slate of films on Tuesday, fest exec director Peter Scarlet said, “They could have dropped the ‘Middle East’ part. Has there been a film from anywhere else in the world this year that was better than ‘The Time That Remains?’ ”

Suleiman will receive the award in Abu Dhabi, where his pic will play in the Black Pearl competition, which features 18 films, including the world preems of Iraqi helmer Mohamed Al-Daradji’s “Son of Babylon” and Egyptian helmer Oussama Fawzi’s “True Colors.”

Total prize pool this year for winners is more than $1 million, with best feature and best Middle Eastern feature set to pick up $100,000 each.

In the doc competition, 15 pics, including Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross’ “The Shock Doctrine” and Ghassan Salhab’s “1958″ will compete for the $100,000 prize.

The fest, which unspools Oct. 8-17, will open with Egyptian helmer Ahmed Maher’s “Al Mosafer” (The Traveler), starring Omar Sharif.

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