News Column

Lebanese takes BIFF Best Doc prize

October 11, 2013


Oct. 11--BEIRUT -- The Beirut International Film Festival wound up its 13th edition at Cinema Abraaj Thursday evening with a glittering award ceremony that saw prizes dispensed for the Short Film and Middle East Documentary competitions.

"Sanctity," the second short by Saudi director by Ahd Kamel, took the Gold Aleph for Best Middle East Short Film, while "Out of Darkness" by Lebanese director Sonia Habib, won the prize for Best Middle Eastern Documentary.

"We are bombarded every day with news, photos and events that we almost feel suffocated," the jury remarked in its presentation statement. "Yet, when we get to experience part of our harsh reality through a well-produced film or documentary, we feel attracted to it given that the approach adopted in tackling this reality is sensitive, full of passion and criticism to what we are living ...

"This is the feeling we had as members of the jury of the Festival while watching the 23 films that took part in the "Short Films" and "Documentaries" competitions held at the this year's edition of Beirut International Film Festival ..."

"Baghdad Messi" by Iraqi director Sahim Omar Kalifa, won the Silver Aleph for Best Middle East Short. Tunisian director Mehdi Barsaoui took the third place prize for his short "Bobby." The Orbit Special Jury Award (Award) for Short Films went to "Scrap," by Saudi director Bader al-Homoud.

"Broken Border" by Kurdish Iranian director Keywan Karimi, walked away with the Silver Aleph, the second-place prize, in the Middle East Documentary Film competition. "Feeding 500," by Emirati director Rafed al-Harthi, took third prize in the Documentary Films contest.

The jury at this year's festival was composed of Lebanese only, and included TV and Cinema producer and director Nigol Bezjian, Web and Social Media Editor at Future TV and documentaries' producer Diana Moukalled, and Chief Creative Officer / Founding Partner at Firehorse production Mouna Mounayer.

"Like every year," the jury statement continued, "all the movies have been watched and evaluated based on two criteria: the idea and the implementation, noting that the points of view of the Jury mostly converged on the preferred ones. And like every year, awards were considered a token of appreciation for the efforts of young and professional filmmakers that deserve to be supported, appreciated and pushed towards wider horizons.

"Having said this, we are aware of all the difficulties facing this sector and those who work in it, on the production, implementation and censorship levels, noting that this latter continues to constitute a major obstacle hindering the growth of the film industry and art in general.

"This year too, Beirut International Film Festival faced a censorship problem...

''I Offered You Pleasure' is one of the two movies which screening was stopped. It actually participated in the short films' competition, however, the management of the Festival decided to withdraw it after it appeared that it has participated in previous festivals in Lebanon, which breaches the regulations of participation.

"Censorship nowadays is not governed by any real actual authority with the presence of digital screening platforms, which makes us wonder why would the authorities insist on prohibiting what has become accessible to all?! Again, it is our battle, all of us, in this region, towards a free democratic future that will only be complete with a full cinematic and generally artistic freedom...

"Allow us to thank you all and to thank Beirut International Film Festival for having been able to go on with a high level of professionalism in spite of the hard times we are going through."

The festival's Societe-Generale Audience Award went out to "Blancanieves," Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger's black-and-white recasting of the Snow White story.

BIFF's awards ceremony was followed by a projection of "The Immigrant," the 2013 movie of US writer-director James Gray, starring Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix.


(c)2013 The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)

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