Lebanese cine-verite drama Under the Bombs, and Soneaa Fi Masr (Made in Egypt), French director Karim Goury's first-person story of his search for his Egyptian biological father, picked up the Muhr Gold awards for best narrative feature and best documentary at this year's Dubai International Film Festival, which ran from 9 to 16 December.

The festival is in its fourth edition, but the Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema were introduced for the first time last year as part of the Gulf event's remit to encourage Middle Eastern talent.

The festival also announced that its 2008 Muhr awards will be expanded to include a new Asia/Africa competition. An animation programme will be added competition.

But for this year - selected by a jury that included reclusive US film-maker Michael Cimino and German director Margarethe Von Trotta, the Bronze, Silver and Gold winning films in the feature film, documentary and short film categories shared out a total kitty of over $300,000.

Tunisian director Nouri Bouzid's Akher Film (Making Of) and Abdellatif Kechiche's La Graine Et Le Mulet (The Secret Of The Grain) took the Silver and Bronze feaEure awards, while London-based Jordanian actor Nasim Sawalha was given the Best Actor prize for his performance in Captain Abu Raed, which travels to Sundance after its Dubai debut.

Best Actress went to Nada Abou Fahat, the female lead of Under The Bombs - which was shot during and just after the Israeli bombardment of Southern Lebanon in July and August 2006, and is also Sundance-bound.

The festival also announced the results of the Dubai Film Connection, established this year with a mandate to bring international film professionals into contact with the Arab filmmaking community.

Three winning projects, selected from fifteen entrants, were awarded $15,000 each and invited - along with one Special Mention - to attend the 2008 Cannes Producers Network.

The winning projects were: Amreeka, by Canadian-Palestinian film-maker Cherien Dabis, Man Without a Cell Phone, a satire about Palestinian Israelis by Sameh Zaobi, and One Man Village, a film about healing and reconciliation in Lebanon by Simon el Habre. Special Mention went to Ziad Doueiri's Man in the Middle, a thriller centring on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema

Narrative features

Gold Muhr: Taht el Qasef (Under the Bombs) by Phillippe Aractingi (France/Lebanon/UK)

Bronze Muhr: La Graine Et Le Mulet (The Secret Of The Grain) by Abdellatif Kechiche (France)

Silver Muhr: Akher Film (Making Of) by Nouri Bouzid (Tunisia)


Gold Muhr: Soneaa Fi Masr (Made In Egypt) by Karim Goury (France/Egypt)

Silver Muhr: Magharat Maria (Maria's Grotto) by Buthina Canaan Khoury (Palestine)

Bronze Muhr: Dhil Al Gheyab (Shadow of Absence) by Nassri Hajjaj (Palestine/Tunisia)

Short films

Gold Muhr: Sarah by Khdija Leclere (Belgium)

Silver Muhr: Haresat Al Ma'a (The Water Guard) by Waleed al Shehhi (UAE)

Bronze Muhr: El Ezz (Garbage) by Lotfi Achour (Tunisia)

Best Actor: Nadim Sawalha for Captain Abu Raed

Best Actress: Nada Abou Fahat for Under the Bombs

Best Screenplay: Borhan Alaouie for Khalass

Best Editor: France Duez for Khalass

Best Cinematography: Pierre Boffety for Burnt Hearts

Best Composer: Nejib Charradi for Making Of

Best Emirati Talent: Mohammed Saeed Harib

Best Emirati Female Film-maker: Nayla Al Khaja

Best Emirati Male Film-maker: Ali Mostafa