DUBAI // The artistic director of the Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) was honoured yesterday with Spain's Order of the Civil Merit, which is awarded by King Juan Carlos I.
The award was conferred upon Masoud al Ali by the Spanish ambassador to the UAE, Gonzalo De Benito, at the festival's headquarters in Madinat Jumeirah.
Mr De Benito said the award recognised Mr al Ali's work to strengthen ties between the two nations by supporting the Spanish film industry. Mr al Ali holds the grade of officer in the order of the civil merit of the kingdom of Spain.
"We are very proud to present this to a man of such art and to share this moment of recognition of the Dubai International Film Festival, which has established itself as one of the most important events in the film circle," said Mr De Benito.
As Mr al Ali was about to receive the honour, there was a cheer and for a moment he was speechless.
"I've never been in such a situation," he said. "I am a very shy person. I am usually the one who is doing the asking. It is such a great thing to be honoured by the king, but I have to say that this award is for the whole of the UAE, not just for me. Culture is a form of dialogue and through it people learn to understand and love each other and so to be recognised in this field is the maximum honour."
The Order of the Civil Merit was created in 1926 to decorate nationals or foreigners who have contributed to political, economic, cultural or human relations with Spain.
Diff joined forces with the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain in September, to promote Arab filmmakers in Europe.
Among the 157 films from 57 nations showing at the Dubai festival this year is the Spanish film Biutiful, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and starring the Spanish heart-throb Javier Bardem. Last year, Diff screened the Spanish-Palestinian co-production To Shoot an Elephant.
"There has always been a link between Spain and the Arab world," Mr De Benito said. "We have about 800 years of common history."
History has shown Spain to have one of the greatest art platforms in the world, said Mr al Ali, who credited the Diff team for the honour.
"There are a few people that have changed the direction of my life including my family," he said. "And without our chairman, Abdulhamid Juma, and the beautiful Diff team, I would not be able to accomplish even the smallest of my dreams, this award is also for them because they hold the same merit."
Mr Juma said the award was a testament to the "strong relations" between Spain and Diff. "Spain produces some of the most powerful movies, and has legendary talent who inspire filmmakers and actors across the world," he said.