A Touch of Sin Abu Dhabi

Top prize for an Arab pic goes to 'In The Sands of Babylon' about the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's brutality

The seventh edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival has announced winners of its Black Pearl Awards, with Chinese helmer Jia Zhangke’s “A Touch of Sin” scoring the top nod for best narrative feature.

“Touch of Sin,” which is based on true stories, mixes Jia’s signature docu-fiction style with Tarantino-esque moments and provides a hard-hitting vision of contempo China slowly consumed by violence. “Sin” won the $100,000 that goes with the top Adu Dhabi honors. Pic had been well received at Cannes, where it scored the screenplay prize.

Iraqi-Dutch director Mohamed Jabarah Al-daradji’s drama “In the Sands of Babylon,” about the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s genocide, won the prize for best narrative film from the Arab world, worth $50,000. The Special Jury Award, also worth $50,000, went to Kurdish director Hiner Saleem’s surreal Kurdistan-set Western “My Sweet Pepper Land.”

The best director from the Arab World nod, again with a $50,000 check, went to Algerian helmer Merzak Allouache’s multi-stranded drama “The Rooftops.” Allouache also received Variety’s Middle East Filmmaker of the Year award during the Abu Dhabi fest.

Judi Dench took the actress prize for her role in Stephen Frears’ “Philomena,” while the actor nod went to Argentinian actor Diego Peretti for playing a surly oil drill inspector in minimalist drama “The Reconstruction” by compatriot Juan Esteban. The main jury was headed by actress Jacki Weaver.

The docu competish jury, headed by Toronto fest co-topper Cameron Bailey, awarded the Black Pearl Award for docu to “These Birds Walk,” which immerses viewers in the lives of attention-starved street kids in Karachi and humanitarian attempts to help. “Birds” is helmed by Omar Mullick and Bassem Tariq and produced by Oscilloscope Laboratories. The $80,000 top docu prize is given in memory of producer Jake Ebert.

“Cairo Drive,” a look at the city’s tumult over the past three years through a car’s passenger seat, helmed by Egypt’s Sherief Elkatsha, took the docu from the Arab World nod worth $50,000.

Britain-based helmer Uberto Pasolini’s “Still Life” scored the top nod in the New Horizons section, worth $100,000. Within that section, the best film from the Arab World prize, worth $50,000, went to Norwegian/Kurdish helmer Hisham Zaman’s fast-paced road movie “Before Snowfall.”

Abu Dhabi’s Audience Choice Award, worth $40,000, went to Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said.”

The Abu Dhabi film fest, which wraps Saturday, brought several stars to the emirate, including Forest Whitaker, the U.K.’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw and India’s Irrfan Khan, as well as U.S. helmer Daniel Schechter and producer Ashok Amritraj.

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