Dubai: Palestinian road film Wajib swept the Muhr Awards at the 14th Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) on Wednesday, winning the top Dh200,000 prize for Best Feature and splitting the jury on their Best Actor decision.
The judges made the unusual choice to award two actors instead of one — father and son duo Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri. The pair went home with the Dh10,000 prize. On the big screen in Wajib, based in Nazareth, the duo travel together in the lead-up to Christmas.
Mohammad accepted the award tearfully on behalf of himself and Saleh, emphasising his pride in his son.
“It’s not me on my own. We are one soul in two bodies. We complete each other,” he said. He also delivered a message to Palestine: “Don’t lose hope. To every injustice there is an end, every refugee will return home and Jerusalem is ours.”
Director Annemarie Jacir, also visibly emotional, said she was blindsided by the win. “This is the top of the top for me,” she said.
Meanwhile, Menha Al Batroui went home with the Best Actress award for her performance in Zahret Al Sabar (Cactus Flower).
Nujoom Al Ganem, an Emirati documentary filmmaker, won this year’s Best Emirati Feature award for her film Sharp Tools, about her late friend and Emirati artist Hassan Sharif.
“After I finished the film, after I saw it on the screen, I felt this emptiness inside me after being so busy with it on a daily basis, day and night, with the character, with the dialogue, with the art itself,” said Al Ganem. “This is an achievement and I’m so happy for it.”
Commenting on the 13 Emirati films which participated in Diff this year, she said, “It is getting more competitive, of course, year by year. I’m glad that there were good films — we are all competing in the end.”
Best Emirati Director went to Abdullah Al Junaibi for his film Camera, Best Emirati Short went to Hana Al Shateri and Yasser Al Neyadi for their film Horoob (Escape), Best Muhr Gulf Short went to Land of Our Fathers by Ulaa Salim, and Best Muhr Short went to A Drowning Man by Mahdi Fleifel.
Sofia Djama was awarded Best Director for her movie The Blessed, while Taste of Cement by Ziad Khalthoum bagged the Dh100,000 Best Non-fiction Feature prize.
The Muhr Gulf Short Jury Prize went to Sabyea by Dhyaa Joda, a first-timer at Diff, who felt the recognition was expected due to the level of hard work that went into it.
Meanwhile, the Muhr Short Jury Prize went to The President’s Visit by Cyril Aris and the Muhr Special Jury Prize went to Heaven Without People by Lucien Bourjeily.
Director Simon Curtis’ film Goodbye Christopher Robin was named the Emirates NBD People’s Choice Award recipient.
The Ministry of Interior’s Cinema Award, valued at $100,000, went to Bahraini writer Fareed Ramadan.
Earlier in the evening, Sanjay Shankar accepted the Young Journalist Award, presented by Diff and Gulf News, for his work covering the festival. With this win, Shankar will be given the opportunity to intern at tabloid!