Dima Hamdan’s The Kidnap and Kasem Kharsa’s Shelter were chosen as the recipients of this year’s Shasha Grant at the close of Abu Dhabi’s Circle Conference (Oct 13-15).

An initiative of the Abu Dhabi Film Commisison (ADFC), the Shasha Grant is a screenwriting competition designed to showcase rising talent in film and TV across the Middle East. Hamdan and Kharsa’s projects were chosen from among six finalists by a jury of five international film executives. They will split the $100,000 Shasha development grant between them.

Hamdan’s The Kidnap is the story of a Jordanian police chief whose life is thrown apart when his pregnant wife is kidnapped. He embarks on a secret mission to find her and uncovers a dark secret that threatens his family and professional future.

Kharsa’s Shelter is the story of an amnesiac Iraqi refugee struggling to survive in Beirut. When he is arrested and falsely accused of war crimes, he is forced to piece together a violent past, and a gypsy boy he orphaned who is now hunting him down.

ADFC will continue to work closely with Hamdan and Kharsa to see the projects through development and production.

ADFC also presented a special prize to finalists Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf for their project Damascenes. The prize includes a trip to the 37º South Market at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) as part of a partnership between ADFC and the MIFF 37º South Market.

More than 50 industry leaders attended the three-day Circle Conference (Oct 13-15) which overlaps the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Oct 14-23). The conference included a keynote from Quinta Communications president Tarak Ben Ammar, panel discussions with filmmakers, broadcasters and production executives from around the world, and an on-stage interview with producer Ed Pressman.

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival opened with a screening of Randall Wallace’s Secretariat. Clive Owen and Adrien Brody were among the stars who attended the opening, and the festival will also play host to Julianne Moore and Uma Thurman. The closing film is Tsui Hark’s Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Eternal Flame. The major awards ceremony of the festival, the Black Pearl Awards, will be held on Friday night (Oct 22).