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Abu Dhabi Film Festival
مهرجان أبو ظبي السينمائي
LocationAbu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
AwardsBlack Pearl Awards
Festival dateOctober

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF; Arabic: مهرجان أبو ظبي السينمائي), formerly the Middle East International Film Festival, was an international film festival which started in 2007. The event was held annually in October in the city of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The ADFF aimed to showcase the best films from the region alongside standout productions from prominent international filmmakers.[1] Since 2012, the festival had been part of the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority, specifically under Media Zone Events and powered by its partner company, twofour54. It was officially scrapped after eight versions in 2015.[2]

Inaugural festival

The first festival debuted with 152 movies and 186 screenings shown in five Abu Dhabi venues. The festival started in 2007 with the support of H.E. Mohammed Khalaf AL Mazroui as General Director of the ADACH, and Nashwa Al Ruwaini as executive director. In 2008, Imad DeirAtany, a talented Lebanese filmmaker and marketer joined the team with more than 200 staff members that empowered the festival's brand.


In 2010, ADACH has developed the Festival's brand, allowing it to showcase more effectively with Dubai Film Festival, Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Cannes, etc. With the changes came the move from MEIFF to Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Headlining features

With a new branding scheme, the 2010 ADFF is making a strong effort to break out from a cluttered festival junket in the Persian Gulf region. This year there are six feature films and two documentaries that are attracting a considerable amount of industry buzz.

In a Better World by the Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, takes a look at the lives of two families in small-town Denmark as they become intertwined through an uneasy friendship of two boys. The official Canadian entry to the Oscar also bows in Abu Dhabi. Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is based on a play by Canadian-Lebanese writer Wajdi Mouawad, and tells the story of a mother’s cryptic will that forces her grown children to confront the prospect that the father they thought dead is alive, and that they have a brother. From Egypt is Messages from the Sea by Daoud Abdel Sayed, which follows the story of Yehya, who returns to Alexandria, the city of his youth following the death of his mother, where he encounters the new face of the ancient, portrayed as a decaying metropolis. Cirkus Columbia,[3] is also considered an Oscar contender. Directed by Danis Tanovic, who won the Best Foreign Language Oscar with his film No Man’s Land in 2002. Cirkus Columbia follows a wealthy ex-pat who comes home to his small village in Yugoslavia in 1991.

Two documentary films, both dealing with current tensions in the Middle East, are highlighting the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace, directed by American director Harry Hunkele and produced by American Emmy-award winning producer Arick Wierson, tells the story of the secret closed door negotiations and power-plays that enabled U.S. President Jimmy Carter to forge the historic Camp David Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt.[4] The film stars Jimmy Carter, former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, CNN anchorman Wolf Blitzer, and, in a rare on camera appearance, former U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.[5] The Oath[6] is documentary from director Laura Poitras that tells the tale of two men, Abu Jandal and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, whose meeting launched them on juxtaposed paths with Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, US military tribunals and the U.S. Supreme Court.[7]

There are two major Hollywood features opening at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Making its world premier is Secretariat,[8] directed by Randall Wallace, starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich is an adopted biopic of the eponymous racehorse Secretariat. Making its Middle East premiere is Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn and directed by Doug Liman, the political thriller tells the real-life story of Valerie Plame, American CIA agent outed by the Bush Administration in an effort to discredit revelations of falsified evidence in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Celebrity involvement

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival is known for attracting a bevy of big Hollywood names, including noteworthy director Michael Greenspan (best known for his feature film Wrecked, which debuted there in 2009), as well as actors such as Uma Thurman and Adrien Brody attended in 2010.[9]


In October, 2009, the UK Guardian published an article about the origins and intent of the MEIFF. The article noted that although the host country, Abu Dhabi, at present has only a small indigenous film-making industry, the film festival could serve a variety of constructive purposes.[10]

Black Pearl Award

2011 winners

Short Narrative Competition

First Prize (AED 30,000) – SOUL, directed by Fatma Abdulla (UAE)

Second Prize (AED 25,000) – DREAMS OF RICE, by Yasser Al Neyadi and Hana Al Shatri (UAE)

Third Prize (AED 20,000) – TELEPHONI, directed by Hassan Kiyany (UAE)

Special Jury Award (AED 25,000) – RANEEN, directed by Maitham Al Musawi (Oman)

Best Emirati Film (AED 25,000) – SOUL, directed by Fatma Abdulla (UAE)

Best Script (AED 10,000) – SINGLE MALE, by Imad DeirAtany (Lebanon) / DREAMS OF RICE, by Yasser Al Neyadi and Hana Al Shatri (UAE)

Best Cinematography (AED 10,000) – WIND, directed by Waleed Al Shehhi (UAE)

Short Documentary Competition

First Prize (AED 30,000) – A FALCON WILL NOT BREED A DOVE, by Mansour Al Dhaheri (UAE)

Second Prize (AED 25,000) – PHOTON, by Awadh Al Hamzani (Saudi Arabia)

Third Prize (AED 20,000) – A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, by Fahmi Farahat (Saudi Arabia)

Special Jury Award (AED 25,000) – LETTERS TO PALESTINE, by Rashid Al Marri (UAE)

Student Short Narrative Competition

First Prize (AED 20,000) – MAHER’S CAMERA, by Mansour Al Badran (Saudi Arabia)

Second Prize (AED 15,000) – MAD CAMEL, by Mohammed Fikree (UAE)

Third Prize (AED 10,000) – DINNER #7665, by Salma Serry (UAE, Egypt)

Student Short Documentary Competition

First Prize (AED 20,000) – 6 ON 18, by Salma Serry (UAE, Egypt)

Second Prize (AED 15,000) – LAYERS, by Manal Wicki (UAE)

Third Prize (AED 10,000) – LAHJATNA (OUR ACCENT), by Mariam Al Nuaimi (UAE)

International Short Film Competition

The Short Film Competition showcases inspired narrative, documentary and animated short films by emerging and esteemed international filmmakers, providing a vital source of support for the short film genre.

The 2011 selection featured 31 films from 23 countries, as well as two newly launched awards for producers of short films.

Best Narrative ($25,000) – A MARRIAGE, directed by Henning Rosenlund (Norway)

Best Documentary ($25,000) – WRITTEN IN INK, directed by Martin Rath (Poland)

Best Animation ($20,000) – LUMINARIS, directed by Juan Pablo Zaramella (Argentina)

Shared with

SPECKY FOUR-EYES, directed by Jean-Claude Rozec (France)

Best Film from the Arab World ($25,000) – FAREWELL EXILE, directed by Lamia Alami (Morocco)

Best Producer ($10,000) – Arben Zharku (Kosovo) for THE WEDDING TAPE

Best Producer from the Arab World ($10,000) – YACINE BOUAZIZ (Algeria) for TOMORROW, ALGIERS?

2009 winners

In 2009, 16 Black Pearl awards were given in 3 major categories (narrative, documentary, and short films). Also given were also 7 Jury Special Mention awards, and one Audience Choice Award. Among all entries worldwide, the best film winners were as follows:[11]

The Black Pearl Award for Best Narrative Film - $100,000

Hipsters (Stilyagi)
Director: Valery Todorovsky (Russia)

The Black Pearl Award for Best Documentary Film - $100,000

The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, A Torch for Peace
Director: T. C. McLuhan (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, USA)

The Black Pearl Award for Best Narrative Short - $25,000

The Six Dollar Fifty Man
Director: Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland (New Zealand)

The Black Pearl Award for Best Narrative Short - $25,000

Director: Supriyo Sen and Najaf Bilgrami (Pakistan, India, Germany)

2008 winners

The Black Pearl for Best Narrative Film - $200,000
Director: Steve Jacobs. Producers: Anna Maria Monticelli, Emile Sherman, Steve Jacobs

The Black Pearl for Best Documentary – $150,000
Director: Gonzalo Arijon. Producer: Marc Silvera

The Black Pearl Special Jury Prize- $125,000
Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love
Director and Producer: Elisabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

The Black Pearl for Best Actress - $75,000
Fawzia: A Special Blend
Actress: Ilham Shaheen

The Black Pearl for Best Actor - $75,000
Wild Blood
Actor: Luca Zingaretti

The Black Pearl for Best Artistic Contribution - $75,000
Laila's Birthday
Screenwriter: Rashid Masharawi

The Black Pearl Audience Choice Award
Saving Luna
Co-Directors: Suzanne Chisholm & Michael Parfit. Producer: Suzanne Chisholm

The Black Pearl for Best Narrative - Short Film- $75.000
The View
Co-Directors: Hazim Bitar & Rifqi Assaf. Producer: Amman Filmmakers Cooperative

The Black Pearl for Best Documentary – Short Film- $75.000
Director: Yasmin Fedda. Producers: Jim Hickey & Robin Mitchell The Black Pearl for Best Animation- Shot Film- $75.000
Director: Karla Casteneda. Producer: Luis Tellez

The Black Pearl for Best Narrative – Student Films – $25.000
Director: Burhan Qurbani. Producer: Fabian Gasmia

The Black Pearl for Best Emerging Filmmaker – Student Films- $25.000
Director: Serena Abi Aad. Producer: IESAV


See also


  1. ^ "About SANAD". Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  2. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (7 May 2015). "Abu Dhabi Film Festival Scrapped After Eight Editions". Variety.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-17. Retrieved 2010-10-03.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2010-10-03.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Back Door Channels". Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-31. Retrieved 2010-10-03.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Reviews for Popular Audio-Visual Software - Theoathmovie". Reviews for Popular Audio-Visual Software - Theoathmovie. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  8. ^ "'Secretariat' to open Abu Dhabi Film Festival". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  9. ^ "Thurman, Brody to attend Abu Dhabi film fest - Entertainment - Events - Emirates24|7".
  10. ^ "Just Add Cash - Abu Dhabi's Instant Cinema", UK Guardian, 27 Oct 2009 [1], accessed 27 Oct 2009.
  11. ^ "MEIFF Announces Winners of 2009 Black Pearl Awards" [2][permanent dead link], retrieved 29 Oct 2009.
  12. ^ AFAC and Abu Dhabi Film Festival Partner to Support Arab DocumentariesThrough the SANAD FilmLab Archived 2011-09-03 at the Wayback Machine