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Winners of the Black Pearl announced in Abu Dhabi

INAUGURAL MIDDLE EAST INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – ABU DHABI BLACK PEARL AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Producer Peter Bouckaert, and Director Nic Balthazar of BEN X
Winner of the Black Pearl Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film. The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 300,000

Michael James Rowland of LUCKY MILES
Winner of Black Pearl Jury Prize for Best New Director (Feature Film). The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 300,000

Ensemble Cast: Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel. Gisele Aouad and Sihame Haddad of CARAMEL
Winner of the Black Pearl for Best Actress. The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 300,000

Carl Markovics of THE COUNTERFEITERS
Winner of the Black Pearl for Best Actor. The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 300,000



Paul Taylor of WE ARE TOGETHER
Winner of Black Pearl Jury Prize for Best Documentary Film. The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 300,000

Producer Gundny Hummelvoll, and Director Hisham Zaman of BAWKE
Winner of the Black Pearl for Best Short Film. The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 100,000

Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont of MANON ON THE PAVEMENT
Winner of the Black Pearl for Best New Director (Short Film). The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 100,000

Josh Raskin of I MET THE WALRUS
Winner of the Black Pearl for Best Animated Short Film. The award carries with it a cash prize of AED 100,000

Other awards announced at the Closing Night Awards Ceremony include the Hayah Film Competition, Variety Middle East Filmmaker of the Year Award, UAE Filmmakers of the Year, and Audience Choice Awards for Best Short Film, Best Fiction and Best Documentary.

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. The Black Pearl trophy (designed by Mohammed Gomaa, with the Grand Jury Prize was hand designed Azza Qubeisi 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 of the upper echelon of the filmmaking community, and includes for features; 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.

For shorts, the jurors are Marianne Khoury, film director and producer; Andrew Crane, short film programmer for American Cinematheque; Ueli Steiger, director of photography; E. Elias Merhige, recognized director; and Jamal Salem, an Emirati writer.

“We started big and we are here to stay,” said Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei, MEIFF Vice-Chairman.

“We are very pleased with our slate and the audience response far exceeded our expectations. The positive feedback supports the idea that this region welcomes international cinema. The Festival looks forward to providing this avenue of exposure for filmmakers in this region,” said Festival Director Jon Fitzgerald.

Executive Director of the Festival, Nashwa Al-Ruwaini, said the evening marks the culmination of a successful Festival. “We are committed to nurture and support the indigenous voices of Emirati filmmakers, as they are the soul and driving force of our work. Through these Awards, the Screenwriters Lab and the Film Financing Circle, we hope to provide a platform of knowledge and funding opportunities for emerging filmmakers.”

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, the cast from CARAMEL, and various Bollywood and Middle Eastern stars graced the red carpet before the ceremony.

In addition to the Black Pearl awards, the following recipients were honored in the Hayah Film Competition. RAMADAN by Fatima Al Shamsi in the Student Category, CELEBRATE LIFE by Kamil Roxas in the Amateur Category and FOR NO ONE by Ziad Oakes in the Professional Category.

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.

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