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Kuwaiti and Saudi movies win half of the awards of the 18th edition of Beirut International Film Festival


The Kuwaiti and Saudi movies shown during the 18th edition of Beirut International Film Festival have won half of the six prizes awarded on Sunday night. The Award for the Best Documentary went to a movie which describes one side of the war between the terrorist Islamic State (IS) and the Kurds in Iraq. As for the movie that won the Award for the Best Short Film, it revolves around a terrorist attack launched by several extremists a few years ago in Saudi Arabia.

The jury awarded “Wasati”, by Saudi director Ali Kalthami, the SGBL Award for the Best Short Film, “for its use of humour, wittiness and the mastery of storytelling in service of a great theme:  the freedom of artistic expression”. The film tries to show the other side of the attack that several extremists launched around ten years ago against showing the play Wasati Bila Wasatia.

The award for Second Best Short Film went to “The All Seeing Blind”, by Turkish director Nuri Cihan Ozdogan, “for its fine storytelling, cinematography, and the lead actor performance, bringing to the screen an interesting story”. It relates to how the gold possessions of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were smuggled to Turkey by hiding them between cotton. Blind workers would take out the gold from the cotton, thinking they were removing stones rather than gold. But the smugglers were not aware that one of the workers could see.

The prize for Third Best Short Film went to “Ablution”, a movie by Kuwaiti director Omar Al Dakheel which tells the bold story of a father who discovers his son’s sexual tendencies. A conflict between religion, duty and the self, complicates their relationship. The jury praised the film “for the courage to approach such a delicate subject matter in the region, and for a story well told” as well as for “the performances” of the actors.

The jury voted for “Facing Death with WireCutter” as the Best Documentary, “for shedding the light on an important cause”. This film by Iraqi-Kurdish director Sarwar Abdullah is “a film that pays homage to people willing to sacrifice their lives for the benefit of others”, according to the jury statement. It tackles the efforts of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in removing mines and explosives that the terrorist Islamic State (IS) had planted.

The award for Best Director of a Documentary went to Lotus by Iranian director Mohammadreza Vatandoust. This documentary, which tells the story of an old woman who waited for 12 years to receive a permit to enter an island to visit its only inhabitant, was praised by the jury “for the personal vision of the filmmaker and his capacity to keep us in surprise till the end”.

El Pianist Musician in The Time of Sahwa, by Saudi director Hassan Madlough, won the Special Jury prize. The jury stated, “We would like to salute the journey of a man, who fought for what he loved and paid the price for the things we take for granted”. The film, which tells the story of a talented Saudi pianist Ali Al-Buri who died in 2016 at the age of 37 after a long battle with brain cancer, is set one year before the social transformations in Saudi Arabia began in the fields of music and arts.

 “McQueen” by French-British director Ian Bonhote, about the main life stops of fashion designer Alexandre McQueen, leading up to his sudden death, won the audience vote prize for Best Feature Film.

After the distribution of the awards of the 18th edition of Beirut International Film Festival, BIFF concluded the show with “Loro 2” by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino.

BIFF 18th edition Awards

 ME Short Film competition 

1) Wasati by Ali Kalthami – Best Short Film – SGBL AWARD

2) The All Seeing Blind by Nuri Cihan Ozdogan (2nd Best Short Film)

3) Ablution by Omar Al Dakheel (3rd Best Short Film)

ME Documentary Competition

1) Facing Death With WireCutter by Sarwar Abdullah – (Best Documentary)

2)Lotus by Mohammadreza Vatandoust (Best Director Documentary)

3)El Pianist Musician In The Time of Sahwa, by Hassan Madlough – Special Jury prize

Audience Vote –for Best Feature Film

McQueen by Ian Bonhote

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