After 81 feature films, 84 shorts, eight world premieres, 19 awards, six screens, one vast golden palace, one cinema, around 500 volunteers, several tons of popcorn and a few parties, yesterday marked the end of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF).
It was a hectic 10 days of movie activity, both for cinema-goers trying to cope with the busy schedule of films, local and international journalists attending screenings and interview sessions, and industry folk attempting to run from talk to workshop to networking event, and perhaps catch a film or two.
The festival’s new director, Ali Al Jabri, was looking forward to the festival’s end by day nine.
“I’m tired and exhausted,” he said. “But it’s not only me. My team is also exhausted. But the excitement of making ADFF has kept us going.”
The festivities kicked off with Richard Gere, whose presence on the red carpet for the opening screening of Arbitrage sparked something of a riot among eager photographers, prompting security guards to link arms to form a tight human chain.
Having returned to the Emirates Palace following last year’s brief stint at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, the festival’s location seemed to please most, as it is closer to the centre of the capital, screenings at Marina Mall’s Vox Cinemas, and incorporated most of the activities all under one roof. The premieres in the palace’s auditorium were notably better attended than those in the Abu Dhabi Theatre last time around.
To read more great coverage of ADFF12 visit Scene&Heard, our A&L blog
“It’s been a great experience,” said the Emirati filmmaker Nawaf Al Janahi, one of the jury members and the director of Sea Shadow, which screened last year. “It’s the same festival that launched a very important film in my career, so to come back on the jury has been a different and rewarding -opportunity.”
Al Janahi was among the group of decision-makers choosing the all-important awards. In the end, it was the director Yesim Ustaoglu who took home the Black Pearl Award for Best Narrative Film for Araf/Somewhere in Between.
“This film is an example of great teamwork,” said Serkan Cakarer, the producer of the Turkish drama. "I feel like a king tonight."
The Palestinian director Mahdi Fleifel’s A World Not Ours, a moving account of life in a Lebanese refugee camp made mixing his own footage and hours shot years ago by his video-obsessed father, picked up the bulk of the gongs in the documentary section. Fleifel helped underline the festival’s efforts to provide a platform for filmmakers, with A World Not Ours having received support from the event’s own Sanad fund. “I dedicate everything to my late father, who I’m sure is watching me tonight,” said Fleifel. "I’d also like to thank Abu Dhabi for helping me to make this film."
The festival was a success, too, for the US-based Syrian director Sam Kadi, whose film debut feature The Citizen was given its international premiere.
“We’ve loved it here,” he said. “Even our second screening, which was on a weekday, was sold out.”
Although The Citizen didn’t pick up any awards, Kadi said he’d love to return next year. “I just have to make another film first.”
The awards ceremony on Friday night brought to a close the main schedule of activities, with yesterday reserved for only a few screenings, including those of the main winners. But not everyone fancied sitting through the various acceptance speeches and gong-giving. The Emirati filmmaker Khalid Al Mahmoud was spotted sneaking out of the Emirates Palace before the event began. “I’m going to watch Ruby Sparks instead,” he laughed.
Winners in the Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2012’s Narrative Feature Competition
Black Pearl Award – Best Narrative Film
Araf/Somewhere in Between, directed byYesim Ustaoglu (Turkey, Germany, France)
Special Jury Award
Gebo and the Shadow, directed by Manoel de Oliveira (Portugal, France)
Best Director from the Arab World
Nouri Bouzid for Hidden Beauties (Tunisia, France, UAE)
Best Actor – in partnership with Jaeger-LeCoultre,
Gael García Bernal in No (Chile, USA)
Best Actress – in partnership with Jaeger-LeCoultre
Franziska Petri, in Betrayal (Russia)
Short Narrative Competition
Murk Light, directed by Yassir Al Yassri (UAE)
Student Short Narrative
3AIB, directed by Hana Kazim (UAE)
Student Short Documentary, Best Emirati Film
Dreams in their Eyes, directed by Abeer Al Marzouqi, Khawla Al Maamari and Ayesha Al Amri (UAE)
To see a list of all winners, go to www.adff.ae