Set in the splendid Emirates Palace, this year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival drew some big names in the world of cinema, including Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers:
“There aren’t that many festivals in the world that are really important,” said Rhys Meyers. “And Abu Dhabi has a very, very beautiful setting for something like a film festival. As the festival grows, as the country grows, so will its allure.”
“I think the festival will grow and grow,” said American actress Uma Thurman. “I hope it will grow and grow because it’s incredibly important for there to be a dialogue and a culture communication between all of us, East and West, North and South. And this is the first time I feel real energy in the festival coming from this region. So I’m so excited for it.”
The award ceremony was hosted by the event’s director, Peter Scarlet, former artistic director of New York’s TriBeCa Film Festival.
Dutch film-maker George Sluizer received the prize for Best Documentary for his film ‘Homeland‘ which is part of an on-going series about the plight of Palestinian refugees. Sluizer goes back and interviews Palestinian families whom he first met in 1974.
“I started with a series of films on the Palestinians nearly 40 years ago, there are now four films, in which I try to give some kind of dignity to the Palestinian refugees who were chased from their country. Receiving a prize, especially in an Arab country, is a double pleasure for me.”
The award for ‘Best Narrative from the Arab World’ went to ‘Here Comes the Rain’ by Lebanon’s Bahij Hojeij.
“This film pays homage to the parents of people kidnapped who are still waiting for their loved ones,” said Bahij Hojeij. “Special homage is paid to a woman called Naife Najjar whose presence is strongly felt throughout the film even though you don’t see her much. She represents the sacrifice of a woman who has lost all hope of finding her kidnapped son and ends up committing suicide.”
‘Best Narrative Film’ went to ‘Silent Souls’ by Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko. He said: “Silent Souls” is the solemn story of a man and his friend who travel to a river to dispose of the corpse of the man’s wife according to ancient customs.
“I’m speaking in the name of all the nations that are disappearing on Earth. If you take the example of languages, there are about 6,000 languages around the world and hundreds will soon disappear. It will be a disaster, that’s why I’m talking about this, about these people.“
The jury’s broad and varied selection of winners reflected the aim of the festival, which hopes to help promote cinema and exchanges between Arabic and non-Arabic cultures.