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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



ADFF 2011 awards and wrap news!

Tilda Swinton at Black Pearl Awards, ADFF 2011 -photo by Vanessa McMahon


ADFF Announces 2011 Black Pearl Awards for Feature Films Jim Poe

On Friday night, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival announced the winners of the 2011 Black Pearl Awards for feature-length films. Chicken with Plums, the acclaimed romantic fantasia set in pre-revolutionary Iran from French artists and filmmakers Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, won the award for Best Narrative Film. Free Men, Moroccan director Ismaël Ferrouki’s tale of Muslim resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris, won Best Director from the Arab World. Position Among the Stars, the groundbreaking documentary about Indonesia from Abu Dhabi-based Dutch director Leonard Retel Helmrich, won Best Documentary.

Woody Harrelson won Best Actor in the Narrative Competition for his role in US writer/director Oren Moverman’s thriller Rampart. Jayashree Basavaraj won Best Actress in the Narrative Competition for her portrayal of an elderly Indian widow who befriends a South African orphan in Avie Luthra’s Lucky.

Stories Only Exist When Remembered, the narrative debut from Brazilian filmmaker Julia Murat, won Best Film in the New Horizons Competition for first- or second-time feature directors.

A Separation, the psychological drama from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who was named Variety’s Middle East Filmmaker of the Year this week, won the Special Jury Prize in the Narrative Competition.

The awards were handed out in a gala ceremony at Abu Dhabi’s Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel. Among the international stars participating in the ceremony were Tilda Swinton, Hend Sabry, British actor and director Rupert Friend, and Egyptian star and producer Bushra.

Swinton, star of The Deep End, Michael Clayton and the Chronicles of Narnia series, and whose latest film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, screened at this year’s ADFF, received a Black Pearl Career Excellence award from the Festival. Friend, known for his roles in Pride & Prejudice and The Young Victoria, was on hand to introduce a special screening of his award-winning directorial debut, the short comedy Steve, starring Colin Firth and Keira Knightley.

Other stars in attendance included Lotfi Abdelli, Nidal Al Achkar, Faris El Hilo, Sami Kaftan, Saba Mubarek and Tareq Al Ali.

The event marked a formal conclusion to a successful fifth edition of ADFF. Screenings continue on Saturday, the last day of the Festival – including special screenings of competition winners Stories Only Exist When emembered, Chicken with Plums, The Last Mountain and El Gusto at Abu Dhabi Theater.

As it did last year, ADFF's SANAD postproduction and development fund supported Black Pearl winners. Safinez Bousbia won Best New Director in the Documentary Competition for her film El Gusto; while the Film Clinic won Best Producer from the Arab World in the same category for their omnibus film Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Dictator.

Three separate juries decided on the Competition winners this week. The Narrative Competition jury president was Syrian filmmaker Nabil Maleh; the Documentary Competition jury president was Egyptian-Canadian director Tahani Rached; and the New Horizons jury was headed by Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi.A jury of graduate students from the Masdar Institute awarded The Last Mountain, US director Bill Haney’s documentary about the coal industry, Best Film in the Our World competition. Skeem, the South African action comedy directed by Tim Greene, won the Audience Choice Award.

Among the collateral awards given at the Festival, The FIPRESCI Prize from the International Federation of Film Critics went to Bousbia’s El Gusto - her second prize on the night. The NETPAC Award for outstanding Asian film went to Atwal’s Marathon Boy. It her second prize as well, as she won Best New Director in the Documentary Category.

The 2011 Black Pearl Awards are:

Narrative Competition

Best Narrative Film: Chicken with Plums, directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (France, Germany, Belgium)

Special Jury Award: A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi (Iran)

Best Director from the Arab World: Ismaël Ferroukhi, Free Men (France, Morocco)“For his excellent telling of an unknown and important story”

Best Producer from the Arab World: Ziad Hamzeh and Ridha Behi, Always Brando (Tunisia)“In recognition of their determination to realize their cinematic dream against all odds”

Best Actor: Woody Harrelson, Rampart (USA)“For his riveting and complex performance as a derailed LA cop”

Best Actress: Jayashree Basavaraj, Lucky (South Africa)

Jury Special Mention: Soufia Issami, Mouna Bahmad, Nouza Akel and Sara Betioui, actresses, On the Edge (Morocco, France, Germany, UAE)“For their impressively authentic performances”

Narrative Competition jury: Nabil Maleh, Syrian filmmaker (president); Marianne Denicourt, French actress; Lucinda Englehart, British producer; Laila Eloui, Egyptian actress; George Sluizer, Dutch director


New Horizons Competition

Best Film: Stories Only Exist When Remembered, directed by Julie Murat (Brazil, Argentina, France)“It was a unanimous decision by the jury to award this the Best Film prize. It's a film that opened a window onto a new perspective of both life and death. At once subtle but full of emotion, the story is universal and resonates days after the viewing experience.”

Special Jury Award: Alms for a Blind Horse, directed by Gurvinder Singh (India)“For its visual style and a poetic journey indicating a new and intriguing voice to emerge from the cinematic landscape of India”

Best Director from the Arab World: Amr Salama, Asma’a (Egypt)“For the bold and important choice of a topic that will engage conversation about the significance of cinema in raising awareness”

Best Producer from the Arab World: Souney Kadouh, This Narrow Place (Lebanon, USA)“For an independent spirit and a determined effort”

Best Actor: Maged El Kedwany, Asma’a (Egypt)“A natural and restrained performance bringing to life a character with human complexity and emotional conflict”

Best Actress (split prize): Memona Mohamed, Tears of Sand (Spain)“For skillful achievement and a graceful simplicity in creating a complex, understated and unexpected performance”

Sonia Guedes, Stories Exist Only When Remembered (Brazil, Argentina, France) “For an elegant performance played with a haunting resonance and ageless gravitas”

New Horizons Competition jury:Bahman Ghobadi, Iranian director (president); Paul Baboudjian, Lebanese filmmaker; Marwan Hamed, Egyptian director; Annemarie Jacir, Palestinian writer/director; Aimee Mullins, US athlete/model/actress

Documentary Competition

Best Documentary: Position Among the Stars, directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich (Netherlands)“Its distinguished cinematic language, the visualization and the way the life of a family is presented in this film takes us to their world and lets us experience the complexities of the society they lived in – with a sense of humor that turns their tragedy into happy moments.”

Special Jury Award: The Tiniest Place, directed by Tatiana Huezo (Mexico)“This film uses the camera as a professional, artistic means of telling a story in a different way, building a strong cinematic language that helps get to the depth of a tragic experience, yet doesn’t simply dwell in tragedy.”

Best New Director: Gemma Atwal, Marathon Boy (India, UK, USA)“This film demonstrates a strong ability to build a scenario that manipulates the expectations of the scenes and its relation with the characters. Throughout the film the audience takes a long, deep look at an individual life, exploring it step by step, and living through all the happy and sad moments.”

Best Director from the Arab World: Safinez Bousbia, El Gusto (France, Algeria, Ireland, UAE)“For its accomplishments in linking the past with the present, linking the characters with the scenes, and using the screen to make a dream come true”

Best Producer from the Arab World: Film Clinic, Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Politician (Egypt, UAE)“For the work and effort done to let the audience have a closer look at a historical moment that the Arab world is living currently, through three different and complete points of view”

Documentary Competition jury: Tahani Rached, Egyptian-Canadian writer/director (president); Anwar Jamal, Indian director; Victor Kossakovsky, Russian director; Mahmoud Al Massad, Jordanian filmmaker; Mostafa Messnaoui, Moroccan writer and film critic

Our World

Best Film: The Last Mountain, directed by Bill Haney (USA)“A powerful documentary that shows a community living next to a mountain as it fights to save their environment from a damaging coal company and their own government. The documentary shows both the problem and the consequences and proposes a renewable energy solution.”

The Our World jury was made up of graduate students from Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST):Khasiaba Al Dalel, Yu-Kuang Lin and Mohamed Asaad Taher. Dr. Amal Al Ghaferi served as advisor.

Audience Choice Award:Skeem, directed by Timothy Greene (South Africa)

NETPAC Award: Marathon Boy, directed by Gemma Atwal “For the great Indian story of a child told locally, but brilliantly integrated into the problems of Asian societies”

FIPRESCI Prize: El Gusto, directed by Safinez Bousbia (France, Algeria, Ireland, UAE)


photos by Vanessa McMahon



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