Saudi film-maker Haifaa Al Mansour was awarded the $100,000 Shasha Grant for her screenplay Wajda as the Circle Conference came to a close in Abu Dhabi.
Al Mansour and her project Wajda beat out competition from Annemarie Jacir, Engi Wassef, Rezah Abi Rafeh and Nadeem Thabet.
As well as the $100,000 development grant the film-maker secured a first-look deal with Imagenation Abu Dhabi.
Over the course of the weekend attendees heard from a variety of panellists on a range of subjects. One of the key themes to emerge was the call for a sustainable film industry in the region to nurture indigenous talent.
Rena Ronson, who was named last week as co-head with Rich Klubeck of UTA’s independent film group, urged local producers to create a voice in their own country and said developing markets needed to build infrastructures to support the industry.
Film-maker Junaid Ahmed highlighted the need to encourage professional training, while producer and Bob Film’s managing director Jan Blomgren advised producers to look for projects that could travel.
Turning to new media and emerging markets, Participant Media CEO Jim Berk and the BBC Worldwide’s managing director of content and production Wayne Garvie spoke about the value of building online following to broaden the audience for filmed and TV content.