The Afaq Jadida (New Horizons) section will include both fiction and non-fiction films from around the world.

The Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi has created a new competition section for first- and second-time feature filmmakers. The Afaq Jadida (New Horizons) section will include both fiction and non-fiction films from around the world, and will run separately from the existing Narrative and Documentary Competitions. Each section will have its own jury.

Films in the competition will vie for MEIFF’s Black Pearl Awards for Best New Narrative Film, Best New Narrative Film from the Arab World, and Best New Documentary, Best New Documentary from the Arab World — each with a $100,000 cash prize. In 2009, Best New Director prizes of $50,000 each were given to films within the festival’s existing Narrative and Documentary Competitions, but the new awards, to be determined by a separate jury for the new section, will be open to more films.

MEIFF executive director Peter Scarlet said in a statement: “During my last year’s travel with colleagues through the region, as we set out to assemble a program of new films, we had many opportunities to meet young filmmakers and to exchange thoughts and ideas. Not infrequently we found ourselves surrounded by an incredible energy and a stunning creativity, by a burning desire to tell good stories, to make films that could be faithful to their own identity but could at the same time appeal to a universal audience. Already at MEIFF 09, we’d determined to make sure that half the films in our narrative and documentary competitions came from the Middle East and North Africa, and eleven of them were by new talents. It seemed to us that creating a separate competition for these bright new voices would offer them more exposure and would further the aim of the festival to be a place of discovery of exciting new voices.”

Abu Dhabi also hosts two separate competitions for shorts and for works by filmmakers from the UAE or GGC countries. Other sections of the festival include Showcase (international cinema), a Special Programs section for restorations and rediscoveries, and a sidebar about environmental issues.

In all, the MEIFF’s Black Pearl Awards represent a total of $1m in prizes.

The fourth MEIFF will run Oct. 14-23, 2010.