Special jury award goes to Al-Abdallah’s The Last Friday.

Israel-born filmmaker Ido Fluk’s Never Too Late was awarded the Grand Prix Le Regard d’Or at this year’s Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF) which came to a close on Saturday evening. [He is pictured receiving the prize.]

An enlightening look at the state of Israeli society, Fluk’s feature debut is the first Israeli feature film to be produced with crowd-sourced funding and had its international premiere at the Swiss festival.

Given the current tension between their two countries, it was particular moving when the jury president Iranian filmmaker Sepideh Farsi handed the award over to Fluk.

On stage, Fluk declared how touched he was by this award and that his film is not about politics, and that it shows different realities. He pointed out that there are a lot of Israelis like him who want withdrawal from the occupied territories and peace.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Julia Murat was the evening’s big winner with no less than four prizes for her fiction feature debut Stories Only Exist When Remembered: Egli Film and Fujifilm’s Talent Tape Award offering a 90-minute tape-to-film transfer, the Ecumenical Jury Award, the Youth Jury’s E-Changer Award, and the International Federation of Film Societies’ Don Quixote Award.

Two weeks ago, Murat won the Grand Prix for Best Film in the International Competition at this year’s Sofia International Film Festival.

The Brazilian-Argentine-French co-production premiered at the Venice Days last September and is being handled internationally by the film’s French co-producer MPM Films.

The International Jury, which included Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof and Bangladesh’s Golam Rabbany Biplob, presented their Special Jury Award donated by the Swiss Authors Society and Suissimage to Yahya Al-Abdallah’s The Last Friday, a coproduction between Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, for his story about the absurdity of a taxi-driver’s everyday existence in Amman.

In addition, the Jury made a Special Mention of Taiwanese director Cheng Hung-I’s poetic sci-fi drama Honey PuPu which has already created a furore on the festival circuit and received numerous prizes.

At the same time, the festival audience – which numbered around 30,000 for film critic Thierry Jobin’s first outing as artistic director – voted for Egyptian director Amr Salama as the recipient of this year’s Audience Award for Asmaa, a dramatic film about AIDS.

The film, which saw Salama celebrated as the best Arab filmmaker at the world premiere at last year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival, also received a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury along with the Argentinean director Hernán Belón for In The Open.

In addition, the FIPRESCI jury, whose members included critics Sheila Johnston and Cerise Howard, conferred their prize on South Korea’s Huh Jong-ho’s Countdown, a gripping thriller about a femme fatale.

The critics described Countdown as “a multi-layered film which appeals to a wide range of audiences. On one level, it is an efficient, fast-moving and accessible crime thriller. On another, the film addresses a whole range of deeper themes - guilt, parenting, illness, handicap, death and salvation - within its genre format. The jury appreciated the skill and ease with which the director moves between tonal registers - from humour to suspense to pathos - and the persuasive central performance.”