Three GCC filmmakers make IWC Filmmaker shortlist

Shortlisted candidates vie for $100,000 award
Saudi Arabian fillmaker Ahd Kamel is among the three finalists for the IWC award.
Saudi Arabian fillmaker Ahd Kamel is among the three finalists for the IWC award.


Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has announced the three shortlisted projects in the running for the third annual IWC Filmmaker Award.

The shortlisted projects vying for the award and $100,000 prize are Saeed Salmeen Al Murry’s “Going to Heaven”, Ahd Kamel’s “Sandfish” and Abdullah Boushahri’s “The Water”.

The winner will be announced at a gala event on 11 December 2014 during the 11th edition of DIFF.

The three projects in development will be assessed by a jury of film industry experts, who will consider the scripts and the overall potential of the projects. Last year, UAE director Waleed Al-Shehhi received the IWC Filmmaker Award from IWC Friend of the Brand and head of the jury, Cate Blanchett for his project “Dolphins” which will screen at the Festival this December.

Karoline Huber, Brand Director of IWC Schaffhausen Middle East & India, said: “We are delighted to partner with the Dubai International Film Festival to bring the IWC Filmmaker Award to the Gulf filmmaking community for a third year. Over the course of the past two editions, we have had the privilege of meeting some of the Gulf’s most prominent and up-and-coming filmmakers who introduced us to unique and captivating stories from the region.

Witnessing their visions come to life has been an extremely rewarding and fascinating experience, and we are looking forward to further contributing to storytelling in the region.”

DIFF artistic director, Masoud Amralla Al Alia, said: “The GCC is rich in stories, legends and traditions that are waiting to be told through the medium of film. Thanks to the IWC Filmmaker Award and our partnership with IWC Schaffhausen, we have created a platform that allows both emerging and established Gulf filmmakers to take their projects from script to screen.”

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The nominees and their projects are:

Saeed Salmeen Al Murry “Going to Heaven”

Emirati filmmaker Saeed Salmeen Al Murry graduated from the New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi. He has directed a number of acclaimed films, including “Bint Mariam” (2008), which won both local and international awards, including Best Emirati Filmmaker at DIFF in 2008.

“Going to Heaven” is about the life of Sultan, an 11-year-old boy, who is longing for the tenderness of his late yet ever-present grandmother. Sultan likes keeping coloured fish as they help him to escape the loneliness and suffering inflicted on him by his stepmother.

Ahd Kamel “Sandfish”

Saudi Arabian filmmaker and actress Ahd Kamel is best known for her starring role in the award-winning Saudi Arabian feature film “Wadjda”. Ahd holds a BFA in Animation and Communication from Parsons The School of Design and a directing degree from the New York Film Academy, and has studied acting under the tutelage of William Esper at the William Esper Studio. Ahd’s first lead role earned her the Golden Gate Award for Best Actress at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Her second directorial short, “La Sainteté” (2013), in which she also starred, received a Golden Bear nomination at the Berlinale and won the Golden Aleph at the Beirut International Film Festival.

“Sandfish” is a coming of age story set in the mountains of the UAE in the 1950s and 1960s. A young independent orphan girl is being sold by her brother - the only remaining member of her immediate family - to an old pearl merchant, a rich man from the “city” who already has two wives, neither of whom was able to give him a child. In this journey towards her new life, she discovers love, lust, hate, sorority, betrayal, manipulation, respect, maternity and growth. She will never be the same again.

Abdullah Boushahri “The Water”

Kuwaiti director and producer Abdullah Boushahri produced the feature length film “Losing Ahmad”, which made its world premiere at DIFF in 2006, going on to win the Best Documentary in the Gulf at the Emirates Film Competition 2007 and touring more than 30 international film festivals around the world. In 2008, Abdullah Boushahri was recognized as the British Council Award Winner of the year for his achievements.

“The Water” tells the story of a sweeping wave of drought which hit the small city of Kuwait at the beginning of the last century before the discovery of oil. In the city’s dry alleys we find Mohammed, a young man with a great, melodious voice, who is in love with a beautiful girl named Taiba. The two lovers face a multitude of social obstacles as the city’s residents turn to desperate measures to get water.

The IWC Filmmaker Award, launched in 2012 as a collaboration between IWC Schaffhausen and DIFF, offers a cash prize of $100,000 to help a talented filmmaker from the Middle East transfer their vision from script to screen.

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