Philippine director Brillante Mendoza won the Muhr Africa/Asia Award as the 6th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) drew to a close yesterday (December 16).

Mendoza took the award for Lola, his tale of two grandmothers dealing with the consequences of murder, Iran’s Mohammad Rasoulof took the special jury prize for San Sebastian title White Meadows.

Michel Khlefi’s won the Muhr Arab Award for Zindeeq, a bleak drama about a Palestinian film-maker returning to a devastated Ramallah in 1948. It received a mixed response from local film critics, the jury, ledt by Algerian director Ahmed Rachedi, described the drama as “a very inspiring work”.

Meanwhile, one of the festival’s stand out titles Harragas, from Algerian director Mirzak Allouache, also won a special jury prize but also took the FIPRESCI prize and the Human Rights Film Network Award.

The awards closed a muted DIFF, which opened weeks after it was revealed the city is facing a major debt crisis. The event cut back in many areas including the number of high profile celebrities flown in for event although Matt Dillon, Mandy Moore and Christina Ricca still made an appearance.

Masoud Amralla, DIFF director, denied that the financial crisis had a significant impact on the event. He said: “Of course we had to be more careful but the recession is not really as bad as some media lhave led us to believe. We tried, nevertheless, to keep costs down and seek a strong show of films and film-makers. I think we did just fine and managed a strong event despite the delicate situation”.

Meanwhile, Ziad Yaghi, director of the Dubai Film Market, said there was an increase in the number of films watched by distributors, buyers and sale agents from 1200 last year to just over 3000. He added that this was helped by a computer system that allows buyers to watch a film and speak directly to sales agents or producers to make a deal.

This year saw more local distributors attending with a view to buying more local fare, which has been a key aim for the festival and market since launching in 2003.

Salim Ramia, co-owner of Gulf Films, which struck a deal with DIFF to pick up Lola and Zindeeq for a wide release next week, said: “I think DIFF has certainly helped to create a market for quality films. You can’t run for six years without creating an interest. It’s up to us to pick up this chance and see whether it will work financially or not”.