Silent Souls, from Russia’s Aleksei Fedorchenko, won the award for best narrative film in the Black Pearl Awards at the close of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Oct 14-23).

Here Comes The Rain, directed by Lebanon’s Bahij Hojeij, took the prize for best narrative film from the Arab world. Both awards came with a cash prize of $100,000.

The best actor award went to the UK’s Andrew Garfield for his performance in Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go. Best actress went to Lubna Azabal for Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies. Both awards came with a $25,000 cash prize. A Jury Special Mention went to Carlos, directed by Olivier Assayas.

The jury was headed by Argentinian filmmaker Luis Puenzo and also included Moroccan actor and director Faouzi Bensaidi, Syrian actress Sulaf Fawakherji, Afghan filmmaker Siddiq Barmak and Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz.

In the documentary competition, which had a separate jury, the $100,000 prize for best documentary was shared between Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia For The Light and Kim Longinotto’s Pink Saris.

The $100,000 prize for best documentary by an Arab director or related to Arab culture was plit beween George Sluizer’s Homeland and Maher Abi Samra’s We Were Communists.

The festival also held a new competition strand this year – the New Horizons / Afaq Jadida Competition for first and second-time directors. Gesher, from Iran’s Vahid Vakilifar, scooped the $100,000 prize for best narrative film, while the $100,000 prize for best narrative film by a new director from the Arab world went to Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia’s OK, Enough, Goodbye (see full list of Black Pearl Awards below).

Entering its fourth edition this year, the festival screened 170 films including 71 features and 17 Arab features. Although the final tally is still being counted, ticket sales are expected to be around the same or a bit more than last year’s 38,00 tickets. Stars in attendance included Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Adrien Brody and Uma Thurman.

The festival also had an increased industry presence due to new initiatives such as the Sanad fund which is supporting 27 Arab projects this year. Sanad held a four-day lab during which the filmmakers it is supporting were able to interact with script mentors, festival programmers, distibutors and sales agents.

In addition, the Circle Conference, organised by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission on the eve of the festival (Oct 13-15), attracted leading industry figures from the region and beyond including Tarak Ben Ammar, Ed Pressman and Rotana Studios president Hala Sarhan.

“Sanad seems to have been born under a good star – we had some terrific applications from established filmmakers and new talent, and the projects were off-beat and interesting,” said the festival’s executive director Peter Scarlet.

“We had a lot of buyers and sales agents here as we were overlapping with the Circle Conference, and brought people in especially for Sanad, so we hope that’s going to open a showcase for Arab cinema in the West.”

The festival closes today (Oct 23) with repeat screenings of some of the Black Pearl award-winning films. The closing film is Tsui Hark’s Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame.


Narrative Feature Competition:

Best Narrative Film: Silent Souls – directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko (Russia)

Best Narrative Film from the Arab World: Here Comes The Rain – directed by Bahij Hojeij (Lebanon)

Best Actor: Andrew Garfield for Never Let Me Go, directed by Mark Romanek (UK/US)

Best Actress: Lubna Azabal for Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Canada/France)

Jury Special Mention – Carlos, directed by Olivier Assayas (France/Germany)

Documentary Feature Competition:

Best Documentary: Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia For The Light (Chile/Germany/France) and Kim Longinotto’s Pink Saris (UK/India)

Best Documentary by an Arab Director or Related to Arab Culture: George Sluizer’s Homeland  (Netherlands) and Maher Abi Samra’s We Were Communists (Lebanon/France/UAE)

Jury Special Mentions: Vibeke Løkkeberg’s Tears Of Gaza (Norway) and Mohamed Soueid’s How Bitter My Sweet! (Lebanon)

New Horizons / Afaq Jadida Competition:

Best Narrative Film by a New Director: Gesher – directed by Vahid Vakilifar (Iran)

Best Narrative Film by a New Director from the Arab World: OK, Enough, Goodbye – directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia (Lebanon/UAE)

Best Documentary by a New Director: El Ambulante, directed by Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano and Adriana Yurcovich (Argentina) and Bill Cunningham New York, directed by Richard Press (US)

Best Documentary by a New Director from the Arab World: Living Skin, directed by Fawzi Saleh (Egypt)

Other Awards:

Abu Dhabi Film Festival Audience Choice Award: West Is West – directed by Andy De Emmony (UK)

ADFF NETPAC Award: Zephyr – directed by Belma Baş (Turkey).