DUBAI // The curtains fell on the fifth Dubai International Film Festival last night, with organisers estimating 47,500 people attended screenings of more than 200 titles during the eight-day event. The award ceremony continued last night after stars from around the world took a walk on the festival's final red carpet. Among the celebrities that turned out for the closing were the Chinese lifetime achievement award winner Tsui Hark, the Lebanese actress Carmen Lebbos, the Egyptian actress Lebleba, the Bahraini actress Haifa Hussain and the Syrian actor Jamal Sulaiman.
The Bollywood presence included the actress and first-time director, Nandita Das, who attended with actors from her film, including Sanjay Suri and Shahana Goswami. Das's debut film, Firaaq, won the Muhr Asia-Africa award for editing. "I have got a very good response in all the screenings of my film," Das said before the awards ceremony began. "In every festival you hope to be appreciated for your work."
Although Firaaq screened on Monday, Suri said he wanted to stay until the end of the festival. "This is a great experience and I hope to be here for the next time too." Hark said he loved being in Dubai and was proud of his lifetime achievement award. "It is a big boost to my career," he said. "I hope to come here every year." Haydar Mohammed was awarded the best UAE talent award, with Nujoom al Ghanem named the best UAE female filmmaker and Saeed Salmeen al Murry the best male Emirati filmmaker. The People's Choice award was a race between two films, Slumdog Millionaire and The Heart of Jenin, but finally went to the latter, which was directed by Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter.
The Muhr best film from the Arab films section went to Masquerades by Lyes Salem while in the Asia Africa category, Treeless Mountain by So Yong Kim was awarded the best film. The widely discussed Deepa Mehta film Heaven on Earth won the award for best screenplay in the Asia-Africa section of the Muhr Awards. Shivani Pandya, DIFF's managing director, said: "We are thrilled by the high participation from the public and industry members alike. We are looking forward already to the 2009 festival, and another five years with our warm, supportive and informed Dubai audiences."
Stars from Hollywood, Bollywood, Arab and world cinema who stopped by the festival this year included Ben and Casey Affleck, Salma Hayek, Nicolas Cage, Hassan Salwan, Ahmad al Saleh, Goldie Hawn, Preity Zinta and Abhishek Bachchan. Organisers said that the festival attracted about 1,000 members of the international film industry to the second annual Dubai Film Connection and the workshops, networking events and panel discussions put on by the Industry Office.