Global cinema to compete in Middle East International Film Fest

Over 60 films from 32 countries around the world will take part in the Official Competition for this year’s Middle East International Film Festival, running October 10-19, 2008. This year’s festival will see 138 films screened from East to West, up from 80 films in MEIFF’s inaugural festival in 2007. This year’s Official Competition is comprised of four sections: feature, documentary, short films and student films. “I am pleased to say that MEIFF 2008 has attracted some of the top films, filmmakers and distinguished industry guests from all corners of the world and we are honoured to host them in Abu Dhabi,” said Vice Chairman of MEIFF, Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei.

“The Official Competition is the place to be at MEIFF to see up and coming films and premieres from across the globe,” said Nashwa Al Ruwaini, Director of MEIFF. “These films should be the first stop for cinema lovers in Abu Dhabi. Among our many world and regional premieres, the In Competition feature films O’Horten (Norway) and Mermaid (Russia) have both been submitted for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. ”

With ten days in this year’s Festival, the slate of films has increased and is balanced with both international and Arab films. The line-up includes critically acclaimed films, award winners and crowd pleasers. The Black Pearl cash prize distributed to the winners, along with a trophy, has been increased this year with prizes totaling over $1 million. All Black Pearl Award Winners will be decided by a jury split into two sections, a feature and documentary jury and a shorts, students and advertisements jury with the winners announced in the Closing Ceremony on October 19, 2008.

The Narrative Competition features 15 films, seven of which are world premieres and two regional premieres. Among the films premiering are Samir Habachi’s Beirut: Open City (Lebanon), Magdi Ahmed Ali’s Fawzia: A Special Blend (Egypt), Saleh Karama’s Henna (UAE) and the much-anticipated Rashid Masharawi’s Laila’s Birthday making its regional premiere. Among the international films competing in the Festival are Ayten Mutlu Saray’s Zara (Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Kurdistan) marking its world premiere, Alexander Melnik’s Terra Nova (Russia) making its regional premiere and Indian Girish Kasaravalli’s Gulabi Talkies.

Films participating in the Documentary competition are Seven Blind Filmmakers (Iran) directed by Mohammed Shirvani, Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (Senegal, Egypt, France) directed by Elisabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Man on Wire (UK, USA) directed by James Marsh, to name a few of the eight competing.

In the category of Short Films, 30 films from 21 different countries will compete to win the prestigious Black Pearl. The shorts program is divided into four sections, ‘Aspects of Life’, A ‘World of Youth’, ‘Middle East Vision’ and ‘Animation and Experimental’. Featured short films include Sometimes (Egypt) directed by Mahmoud Soliman, Boxing Lesson (Romania) directed by Alexandru Marrodinue, Breadmakers (UK) directed by Yasmin Fedda, Boutellisse (Tunisia) directed by Nasreddinee Shili and The Graffiti of Mister Tupaïa (New Zealand) directed by Christopher Dudman.

The 17 Student Films in the competition include Ali the Iraqi (Lebanon) directed by Vatche Boulghourjian, Kate Wakes (USA) directed by Jasmine Kosovic, The Morning with Other Eye (Russia) directed by Philipp Yurev, Ya Halawood (Jordan) directed by Students of Workshop by Amman Filmmakers Cooperative among other films competing to win the three $25,000 Black Pearl Awards.