Source: Tim P. Whitby - Getty Images for RSIFF

Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji

Iraqi director Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji’s Baghdad-set feature Hanging Gardens took home the best film award at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival, which announced its Yusr award winners on Thursday, December 8.

Hanging Gardens follows a young boy living as a rubbish picker in the dumps of Baghdad, nicknamed the ‘hanging gardens’, who hits the jackpot when he finds discarded US sex doll.

Scroll down for the full list of winners

The Arabic-language film is a Iraq-Palestine-Egypt-UK-Saudi Arabia co-production. The UK producer is Margaret Glover, who also wrote the script with Al Daradji; fellow producers are Iraq’s Huda Al Kadhimi and Palestine’s May Odeh.

The film also received the best cinematic achievement award, for cinematographer Duraid Munaijim.

Lotfy Nathan received the best director prize in the Competition section, for family thriller Harka. Lead actor Adam Bessa, named one of Screen’s Arab Stars of Tomorrow during the festival, won the best actor prize for his role as a poor street seller trying to support his two younger sisters.

The film debuted in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year, where Bessa also received the best performance prize.

The Competition jury, consisting of Ali Suleiman, Kaouther Ben Hania, Nelly Karim and Levan Koguashvili, awarded a jury prize to Mohammed Alatawi’s Saudi feature Within Sand, about a man who is ambushed by a group of thieves and finds himself lost in the desert.

Adila Bendimerad received the best actress prize for The Last Queen, while best screenplay went to Reza Jamali for A Childless Village.

Jeddah-born Saudi actress Sara Taibah won the Rising Star prize, having starred in festival short VHS Tape Replaced, and starred in and written TV series Jameel Jeddan.

The balmy Jeddah evening temperature meant the ceremony took place outside, unlike the majority of film awards. Jackie Chan received an honorary prize and repeated his statement from his in-conversation event earlier in the day that he plans to make “more love movies, less action movies”.

Chan said that the upcoming Rush Hour 4, for which he was meeting the director in Jeddah, will also star Mike Tyson.

The audience for the closing ceremony consisted of an eclectic mix of regional talent and UK and US stars, including Naomi Campbell, DJ Khaled and Gossip Girl actor Ed Westwick.

The festival continues until Saturday, December 10, with screenings at the VOX Cinemas venue in the Red Sea Mall to the north of the city.

Red Sea International Film Festival 2022 winners

Red Sea Competition

Best film – Hanging Gardens (Iraq-Pal-Egy-UK-Saudi) dir. Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji
Best director – Lotfy Nathan, Harka
Jury prize – Within Sand (Saudi) dir. Mohammed Alatawi
Best screenplay – Reza Jamali, A Childless Village
Best actress – Adila Bendimerad, The Last Queen
Best actor – Adam Bessa, Harka
Best cinematic achievement – Duraid Munajim, Hanging Gardens

Audience award for best Saudi film – How I Got There (Kuw-Saudi) dir. Zeyad Alhusaini
Audience award for best film – Ajoomma (Sing-S Kor) dir. He Shuming