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All the Buzz on Film Festival Awards, Celebrity Tributes and the Film Awards Season.

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Award Winners At Inaugural Middle East International Film Festival


Monday, October 21--------The Middle East International Film Festival – Abu Dhabi (MEIFF) announced the winners of the Black Pearl Awards at the Closing Night Ceremony held at the Emirates Palace  on Saturday evening. The Black Pearl trophy (designed by Mohammed Gomaa) is a handmade sculpture representing the beautiful and rare black pearl originally discovered in the pristine waters of the Abu Dhabi coastline, and a symbol that is an integral part of Abu Dhabi history and culture. The Black Pearl Awards also come with a production grant that will help launch the filmmaker’s future projects.

The winners were chosen by a jury including Ian Birnie, Director of Film Department of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Elliot Kotek, Editor-in-Chief of Moving Pictures Magazine; Christian Frei, renowned documentary filmmaker; Ann Bernier, veteran film producer; Mohamed Al-Ahmad, head of the National Film Organization in Syria; Naguib Ayad, an executive producer in Tunisia and Claudia Landsberger, media industry executive and film festival consultant.The evening opened with a special dance performance choreographed by Otis Sallid, and a screening of the Closing Night film, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH by director Paul Haggis. Haggis, together with cast from the film, Frances Fisher and Jake McLaughlin and various Bollywood and Middle Eastern stars graced the red carpet before the ceremony.  The winner of the Black Pearl Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film was BEN X (Belgium), from director Nic Balthazar. The film, the story of an autistic young man who finds revenge against the bullies who taunt him via elaborate computer games, also shared the Grand Prix des Ameriques prize at the Montreal World Film Festival earlier this season.

LUCKY MILESLUCKY MILESAustralian director Michael James Rowland, won the Black Pearl Jury Prize as Best Director for LUCKY MILES, a drama about a group of Cambodian and Iraqi refugees who must fend for themselves when they are dumped on the border of a desert in western Australia. The film premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this summer, and has since played to packed houses at festivals in Jerusalem, Adelaide, Sydney and Pusan. WE ARE TOGETHER, the HBO Documentary Film about a group of orphans in South Africa, won the Black Pearl Jury Prize as Best Documentary FilmThe ensemble cast of Lebanese actresses in the film CARAMEL, about a woman's beauty shop in Beirut, collectively won the Black Pearl for Best Actress. The winner of the Best Actor prize was Carl Markovics of the German period film THE COUNTERFEITERS, who plays a Jewish man in a concentration camp who comes upon an ingenious method of survival. The winners in each category will receive an awards package including a cash prize of USD $5,000, an iPod, and a one-year scholarship to attend the New York Film Academy ’s new Abu Dhabi campus, scheduled to open in February 2008.

Nadine Labaki of CARAMEL walked away with the Variety Middle East Filmmaker of the Year award, while the UAE Filmmakers of the Year went to Fadel Al Muheiry and Hani Al Shibani. The both of them were also presented with a cash prize of AED 100,000 each.Rounding the night were the Audience Choice Award announcements. Audience Choice for Best Short went to TANGHI ARGENTINI, Audience Choice for Fiction went to PERSEPOLIS and Audience Choice for Documentary was awarded to HERE AND NOW. The evening wrapped up with a beautiful party on the terrace of the Emirates Palace. MEIFF, in its inaugural year, delivered on its cultural mandate to bring a diverse slate of international films and programs to the community and introduce filmmakers from around the world to the resources of the region. For more information on the Festival, visit the official website at:

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor

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All the Buzz on Film Festival Awards, Celebrity Tributes and the Film Awards Season.

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