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60 films in competition at Middle East International Film Fest

Over 60 films from 32 countries around the world will take part in the Official Competition for this year's Middle East International Film Festival, running October 10-19, 2008.
This year’s festival will see 138 films screened from East to West, up from 80 films in MEIFF’s inaugural festival in 2007. This year’s Official Competition is comprised of four sections: feature, documentary, short films and student films.
"I am pleased to say that MEIFF 2008 has attracted some of the top films, filmmakers and distinguished industry guests from all corners of the world and we are honoured to host them in Abu Dhabi," said Vice Chairman of MEIFF, Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei.

"The Official Competition is the place to be at MEIFF to see up and coming films and premieres from across the globe," said Nashwa Al Ruwaini, Director of MEIFF. "These films should be the first stop for cinema lovers in Abu Dhabi. Among our many world and regional premieres, the In Competition feature films O’Horten (Norway) and Mermaid (Russia) have both been submitted for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film."

With ten days in this year's Festival, the slate of films has increased and is balanced with both international and Arab films. The line-up includes critically acclaimed films, award winners and crowd pleasers. The Black Pearl cash prize distributed to the winners, along with a trophy, has been increased this year with prizes totaling over $1 million. All Black Pearl Award Winners will be decided by a jury split into two sections, a feature and documentary jury and a shorts, students and advertisements jury with the winners announced in the Closing Ceremony on October 19, 2008.

Jon Fitzgerald, MEIFF’s Director of Programming quoted, "With an expanded Festival in 2008, it was logical to increase the number of films in Competition. We are pleased to present such a strong line-up, building on our success of 2007, where we presented Counterfeiters with a Jury Prize, before it went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. This year, the selections include a high percentage of dramatic works that focus on women, their relationships and the universal challenges they face in the world around them."

The Black Pearl Awards will be given in the following categories:

Feature Films and Documentaries:
The Black Pearl for Best Narrative Film - $200,000
The Black Pearl for Best Documentary – $150,000
The Black Pearl for Best Actress - $75,000
The Black Pearl for Best Actor - $75,000
The Black Pearl for Best Artistic Contribution - $75,000 (For any arts of Cinema except direction and acting)
Special Jury Prize- $125,000

Short Films:
The Black Pearl for Best Narrative Film - $75,000
The Black Pearl for Best Documentary - $75,000
The Black Pearl for Best Animation Film - $75,000

Student Films:
The Black Pearl for Best Narrative Film - $25,000
The Black Pearl for Best Documentary - $25,000
The Black Pearl for Best Animation - $25,000

Special Section - Advertisements
Special Jury Prizes (3)

Audience Choice Award
Audiences are asked to vote for their favorite film between the 130 films in the festival and an award will be handed to the winning film.

The Narrative Competition features 15 films, seven of which are world premieres and two regional premieres. Among the films premiering are Samir Habachi's Beirut: Open City (Lebanon), Magdi Ahmed Ali's Fawzia: A Special Blend (Egypt), Saleh Karama's Henna (UAE) and the much-anticipated Rashid Masharawi's Laila's Birthday making its regional premiere. Among the international films competing in the Festival are Ayten Mutlu Saray's Zara (Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Kurdistan) marking its world premiere, Alexander Melnik's Terra Nova (Russia) making its regional premiere and Indian Girish Kasaravalli's Gulabi Talkies.

Films participating in the Documentary competition are Seven Blind Filmmakers (Iran) directed by Mohammed Shirvani, Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love (Senegal, Egypt, France) directed by Elisabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Man on Wire (UK, USA) directed by James Marsh, to name a few of the eight competing.

In the category of Short Films, 30 films from 21 different countries will compete to win the prestigious Black Pearl. The shorts program is divided into four sections, 'Aspects of Life', A 'World of Youth', 'Middle East Vision' and 'Animation and Experimental'. Featured short films include Sometimes (Egypt) directed by Mahmoud Soliman, Boxing Lesson (Romania) directed by Alexandru Marrodinue, Breadmakers (UK) directed by Yasmin Fedda, Boutellisse (Tunisia) directed by Nasreddinee Shili and The Graffiti of Mister Tupaïa (New Zealand) directed by Christopher Dudman.

The 17 Student Films in the competition include Ali the Iraqi (Lebanon) directed by Vatche Boulghourjian, Kate Wakes (USA) directed by Jasmine Kosovic, The Morning with Other Eye (Russia) directed by Philipp Yurev, Ya Halawood (Jordan) directed by Students of Workshop by Amman Filmmakers Cooperative among other films competing to win the three $25,000 Black Pearl Awards.

Also part of the Black Pearl Awards is a Special Advertisements Section with three special jury prizes.

MEIFF, held in Abu Dhabi, is an annual event and a project of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). The Festival is a cultural event dedicated to bringing a diverse slate of international films and programs to the community and introducing filmmakers from around the world to the resources of the region.

This year's MEIFF will see several new additions to an already exciting schedule. For the first time, there will be a section of the Festival concentrating on Environmental Films as well as a showcase of documentaries highlighting the 60 years since the division of Palestine and various high-profile industry initiatives.

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