Russian auteur Andrey Zvyagintsev’s stinging satire “Leviathan,” about how messed up Russia is under Vladimir Putin, was the big winner at the 8th Abu Dhabi Film Festival, taking the top Black Pearl Award, while its protag, Alexey Serebryakov, scored the best actor nod. The black social comedy’s win at Abu Dhabi comes after “Leviathan” recently emerged victorious at the London Film Festival.
Russia scored twice with Alexander Konstantinovich Kott’s “Test,” a silent love story set against the backdrop of Russia’s first hydrogen bomb tests, scooping the Special Jury nod. “Test” previously took the top prize at the Kinotavr Film Festival in Sochi.
The best actress award went to Maria Bonnevie for her role as an emotionally fragile woman in Susanne Bier’s baby-snatching drama “A Second Chance.”
“Memories on Stone,” a drama about two childhood friends on a quest to make a movie about genocide in post-Saddam Kurdistan, by Kurdish director Shawkat Amin Korki, took the Best Film from the Arab World prize, which is a key recognition at this prominent platform for Arab Cinema.
Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab won the Best Director from the Arab World prize for his drama “The Valley,” about man who loses his memory and is held hostage.
The main winner in the New Horizons section, dedicated to younger directors, was Italy’s “The Wonders,” by Alice Rohrwacher, which took the section’s top nod after previously winning the Jury Prize in Cannes. Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar’s “Theeb,” an epic with Western overtones, set in a Bedouin community with real Bebouins as actors, won the Best Film From the Arab World in this section. “Theeb” recently scooped the director nod in the Venice Film Festival’s Horizons section.
The ninth edition (October 23-Nov. 1) of Abu Dhabi went smoothly, boosted by a strong selection and a somewhat more substantial industry component this year. The only sore spot was the pervasive use of cellphones during gala screenings which resulted in snippets of “Theeb” ending up on Instagram, though fest organisers swiftly managed to have them removed. Disney imposed no cell use during the screening of “Big Hero 6,” the fest’s closer, which made its Middle east launch from Abu Dhabi on Friday. Ironically for “Hero” piracy was less of an issue, since it screened in 3D.