Iraqi filmmaker Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji picked up the Golden Yusr for Best Feature Film and the Yusr Award for Best Cinematic Achievement at the Red International Sea Film Festival with his debut feature Hanging Gardens on Thursday evening.
Co-written by Al Daradji with Margaret Glover, the film follows As'ad, a 12-year-old rubbish picker, who adopts an American sex doll from the Baghdad dumps, and crosses into a perilous red zone, finding himself caught in the crossfire.
The film won Venice's 2021 edition of Final Cut for the best film in post-production and debuted in the festival's Horizons Extra sidebar this year.
The award was handed out at a ceremony on Thursday evening by Red Sea Festival Execs Mohammed Al Turki, Jomana Al-Rashid, and Egyptian actress Yousra.
In other top prizes, American filmmaker Lotfy Nathan won the Yusr Award for Best Director for his Tunisia-set debut feature Harka , and Saudi Arabian director Mohammed Alatawi won the Red Sea: Competition Jury Trophy for Within Sand . Iranian filmmaker Reza Jamali won Best Screenplay for A Childless Village.
In the acting categories, Adila Bendimerad won Best Actress for her performance in the Algerian costume drama The Last Queen , and Adam Bessa won Best Actor for Harka . Bessa was previously feted at Cannes this year, where he shared Un Certain Regard's performance award with Vicky Krieps ( Corsage ).
Moroccan director Jawahine Zentar won Best Short Film for On My Father's Grave .
This year's competition jury was headed by director Oliver Stone. He was joined by Egyptian star Nelly Karim, best known internationally for her performance in The Blue Elephant and Clash , Tunisian Oscar-nominated The Man Who Sold His Skin director Kaouther Ben Hania, Georgian film director Levan Koguashvili ( Brighton 4th ) and Palestinian actor Ali Suleiman ( Huda's Salon, 200 Meters ).
Running December 1-10 in the port city of Jeddah, the Red Sea Film Festival took place five years to the week that news first broke that Saudi Arabia was lifting its 35-year cinema ban as part of sweeping reforms to open up its society and the economy.
The reforms have been broadly welcomed by the international community but questions continue to swirl around the country's human rights record.
Shekhar Kapur's cross-cultural romance What's Love Got to Do with It? opened the festival with Kapur; writer and producer Jemima Khan; actors Shabana Azmi, Sajal Ali, and Jeff Mirza; and DJ and music producer Naughty Boy in attendance.
This year's festival selection included 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries with 34 World Premieres, 17 Arab Premieres, and 47 MENA Premieres.
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