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Algerian film wins top award at Qatar festival

Oct. 31, 2011 - 19:24 By Korea Herald
DOHA (AFP) ― Qatar’s annual film festival gave its top award to filmmaker Merzak Allouache’s production of “Normal,“ a movie that follows disillusioned Algerian youth in the wake of the “Arab Spring” revolutions.

The award, which carries a bonus of $100,000, was announced at the third annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival awards ceremony Saturday, alongside seven other prizes, including, best Arab documentary film, best Arab short film, and best performance by an Arab actor.

The winners were chosen by a five-member panel of judges headed by award winning Syrian director Mohammed Malas, well-known throughout the Arab world for his movies.

Allouache dedicated his award to the “Syrian people’s struggle,” referencing the eight-month uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad, who has spearheaded a brutal crackdown on protesters that according to UN figures, has claimed more than 3,000 lives.

A highlight of the festival was the Moroccan-French production “Omar Killed Me,” a true story about a Moroccan immigrant to France who was convicted of murdering his wealthy French employer and pardoned by French President Jacques Chirac seven years later.

The movie’s director, Moroccan Roschdy Zem, was awarded the “Best Arab Narrative Filmmaker” prize, which carries a bonus of $50,000.

The only Arab woman to be recognized by the panel of judges was the Lebanese documentary producer Rania Stephan, who was awarded the “Best Arab Documentary Filmmaker” prize for her portrayal of the life of Souad Hosni, a famous Egyptian actress who died in London in 2001.

The Best Documentary film prize was awarded to “The Virgin, the Copts and Me” directed by French-Egyptian Namir Abdel Messeeh.

The film festival opened Tuesday with a screening of “Black Gold,” a movie by French director Jacques Annaud partly filmed in the gas-rich Gulf country.

Starring Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto, “Black Gold” tells the story of two emirs locked in a feud after the discovery of oil, as a young leader emerges to unite the desert tribes.

US actor and the founder of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro, helped organize the first Doha festival in 2009.

Doha launched its festival this year four days after the end of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, in what is seen as a growing cultural competition between Gulf cities.

Dubai is holding its own festival from Dec. 7-14.

Film festivals in the Gulf states, spared the uprisings across the Arab world, have stolen the limelight this year after Damascus and Cairo cancelled their annual events due to unrest in both Egypt and Syria.