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Women directors take top prizes at Dubai Film Connection

Two projects from women directors – Katia Jarjoura’s The Eye Of The Devil and Najwa Najjar’s [pictured] Eyes Of A Thief – were presented with DIFF awards at this year’s Dubai Film Connection (DFC).

The Eye Of The Devil is the first feature project from Jarjoura, a Lebanese-Canadian documentary filmmaker with credits including Goodbye Mubarak! Thriller Eyes Of A Thief, from Palestinian filmmaker Najjar, already has partners including the UK’s Warp Films and Iceland’s Oktober Productions attached.

Female directors also scooped the DIFF award for documentary, which went to When Home Becomes Hell from Morocco’s Dalila Ennadre, and the Screen Institute Beirut (SIB) award for documentary, which went to Zaineb Hates The Snow from Tunisia’s Kaouther Ben Hania. All three DIFF awards came with a cash prize of $25,000 and the SIB award with a prize of $15,000.

Meanwhile, the International Relations ARTE Award (Euros6,000) went to Blessed Benefit, to be directed by Jordan’s Mahmoud Al Massad, while Back To The Jungle, to be directed by Lebanon’s Wissam Charaf, took the DIFF award for a debut feature ($10,000) presented by Egypt-based Film Clinic.

Beirut Hold ‘Em, from Lebanon’s Michel Kammoun, took the award from Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIP). Introduced for the first time this year, the Euros5,000 award is for a project from a French-speaking Arab country.

Commenting on the awards, DFC director Jane Williams, said: “There’s a good regional spread and it’s great to see four female directors among the winners.”

Now in its fifth edition, the DFC co-production market has so far selected 64 projects of which 19 have been completed and 12 are currently in production or post-production. All projects must be submitted with a producer attached.

Completed projects include Cherien Dabis’ Amreeka, Mohamed Al Daradji’s Son Of Babylon and Faouzi Bensaidi’s Death For Sale. Projects in post include Annemarie Jacir’s When I Saw You.

Looking back over the past five years, Williams said that the quality of projects is improving in various ways including “the quality of ideas and the way they’re presented – more filmmakers know how to do a proper synopsis and treatment.”

She added: “You can also see a confidence building, as [local filmmakers] know there are more sources of funding, and there’s also a better chance of reaching an international audience.”

In addition to the DFC projects, the Dubai Film Market presents projects through its partnerships with organisations including TorinoFilmLab, EAVE, the Royal Film Commisison Jordan and the San Sebastian and CPH:DOX film festivals.

The market also provides post-production support to projects through its Enjaaz fund. In the second round of 2011 funding, announced today, five projects received support including The Infiltrators (dir: Khaled Jarar, Palestine), 39 Seconds (dir: Lara Saba, UAE-Lebanon), 10 Years (dir: Mahmood Soliman, Egypt-UAE), My Brother (dir: Kamal El Mahouti, Morocco-France) and Ouardia Once Had Sons (Djamila Sahraoui, Algeria-France-UAE). 

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