Tunisia's Nouri Bouzid nabs Arab director prize

The sixth edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival concluded Friday with a streamlined awards ceremony that saw the Venice preemed “Araf — Somewhere In Between,” by Turkish helmer Yesim Ustaglu, nab the fest’s top purse of $100,000 for best narrative feature.

Vet Tunisian director Nouri Bouzid won the Arab director prize ($25,000) for “Hidden Beauties,” an Abu Dhabi world preem, while main thesping awards went to an absent Gael Garcia Bernal for Pablo Larrain’s “No,” and rising star Franziska Petri for Kirill Serebrennikov’s “Betrayal.”

Following an enthusiastically received tribute and a Lifetime Achievement Award, Claudia Cardinale accepted the Special Jury Prize ($50,000) for Manoel de Oliveira’s “Gebo and the Shadow.”

Fest topper Ali Al Jabri, heading his first edition following the surprise removal of Peter Scarlet in early August, pointedly thanked the firm foundations laid by the previous administration for the success of the current fest. Now under the umbrella of local media hub TwoFour54 after the diminution of previous parent ADACH (Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage), the fest appears to have maintained its position in the highly competitive Gulf film fest landscape.

In the New Horizons section, jury prexy Francoise Bonnot handed the top award for narrative feature ($100,000) to Franco-Iranian co-prod “A Respectable Family,” directed by novice Massoud Bakhshi (the pic preemed in Cannes). “Beasts of the Southern Wild” furthered its fan club and earnings with Benh Zeitlin collecting the Special Jury Prize ($50,000), while Annemarie Jacir’s “When I Saw You,” this year’s Palestinian Oscar entry, was awarded best film from the Arab world ($50,000) in what’s likely to be the continuation of a healthy fest career. Golshifteh Farahani received best actress for Atiq Rahimi’s “The Patience Stone,” set to be released in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics sometime in 2013. Danish thesp Soren Malling was awarded best actor for Tobias Lindholm’s “A Hijacking,” which also received a special mention. Best director from the Arab world ($25,000) went to freshman helmer Hala Lotfy, whose pic “Coming Forth by Day” was also the Fipresci choice.

This year’s docu competition was especially strong, with Toronto preemed Palestinian docu “A World Not Ours,” by Mahdi Fleifel, a popular choice for the section’s Black Pearl award ($100,000). Lyubov Arkus received the best new director prize ($50,000) for her moving “Anton’s Right Here,” with an absent Sarah Polley awarded the Special Jury prize ($50,000) for “Stories We Tell.” On the Arab side, best Arab docu ($50,000) went to Tunisian Sami Tlili’s “Cursed Be the Phosphate,” and best Arab directors ($25,000) to Wael Omar and Philippe Dib for “In Search of ‘Oil and Sand’.” The major prizes were rounded off with the audience award going to “Saving Face,” directed by Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge. Egyptian actress Sawsan Badr gracefully accepted a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement prize.

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