The Salesman, The Eagle Huntress and Hunt For The Wilderpeople take top prizes, while Meg Ryan accepts honorary award.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, UK film-maker Otto Bell’s The Eagle Huntress and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, have won the top prizes at the Doha Film Institute’s fourth Ajyal Youth Film Festival (Nov 29-Dec 5).

A total of 38 features from around the world screened at Ajyal this year.

Waititi’s tale of the relationship between a mixed up teenager and a reluctant foster parent won the top prize of the Mohaq jury made up of children aged eight to 12-years-old.

The Hilal jury, for the 13 to 17-year-old category, awarded The Eagle Huntress, about a young Mongolian girl’s quest to become the first female eagle huntress of her semi-nomadic tribe. The win coincides with the documentary’s inclusion on the 15-title Oscar documentary shortlist on Tuesday.

The Bader jury, for jurors aged 18-21, selected Farhadi’s Tehran-set couple drama The Salesman, which is also a favourite in the foreign language category of the Academy Awards.

In the “Made in Qatar” programme, AJ Al Thani won best narrative for her short drama Kashta about a father and son hunting trip in the desert that takes a tragic turn.

Jassim Al-Rumaihi’s Amer: An Arabian Legend, about a famous prize-winning racehorse, won best documentary. Nora Al-Subai’s Al-Johara won a special jury award and Ahmed Abdelnaser received an honorary jury award for More Than Two Days.

Al-Johara and Amer: An Arabian Legend are among the first completed films to win the backing of the Qatar Film Fund, launched at the end of 2104. AJ Al-Thani’s Kashta was backed by the DFI’s main grants programme.

The winners were announced at the closing night ceremony on Monday evening (December 5) which was followed by the MENA premiere of The Red Turtle.

Honorary award for Meg Ryan

Highlights outside the main feature programme included actress and director Meg Ryan’s presence to receive the Ajyal honorary award to celebrate her inspirational career.

She also gave a talk on her feature directorial debut Ithaca to an audience of some 550 youngsters with dreams of working in cinema.

When asked for tips on how to break into the film industry, she replied: “Get as much as experience as you can, get on as many sets as you can. I even mean write scripts, fail at that, the more experience you get the better.”

Speaking about the making of her coming-of-age tale Ithaca, and why she was drawn to the project, she commented: “I just felt like as a mom it’s a story I could tell, more than an actor, or someone working in the movie business, as a mother I loved telling the story.”