The Valley, Mother of the Unborn and Theeb awarded in Abu Dhabi

Awards also for The Wanted 18, Queens of Syria, Return to Homs and The Man from Oran

Events and Festivals

The Valley, Mother of the Unborn and Theeb awarded in Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival wrapped up last weekend with awards for narrative and documentary features by Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian, Syrian and Egyptian filmmakers.

In the Narrative Competition, Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab won Best Director from the Arab World for his film The Valley, a drama set in the Bekaa Valley that is next screening at the Cairo International Film Festival, which kicks off on Sunday.

Kurdish director Shawkat Amin Korki won Best Film from the Arab World for Memories on Stone, a film in which two friends decide to make a film about the Al Anfal Kurdish genocide after the fall of Iraq, while a Special Jury Mention went to French-Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu.

In the Documentary Competition, Palestinian artist and filmmaker Amer Shomali and Canadian filmmaker Paul Cowan'sThe Wanted 18 won Best Documentary from The Arab World. The film blends 3D animation and interviews to tell a tale of community-led resistance during the Palestinian intifada: "As the title suggests, the film is told through the lens of 18 cows bought by Jalal Oumsieh from an Israeli kibbutz," writes Marwa Hamad in Gulf News. "Once the townspeople learnt how to milk the cows -- an endearing struggle that culminated in sending one of their own to America to learn the necessary techniques -- the cows became integral to the town's ability to boycott Israeli milk."

In the same section, Best Director from the Arab World went to Yasmin Fedda for her Queens of Syria, a portrait of Syrian women performing Euripides' Trojan Women.

A Special Jury Mention went to Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki's Return to Homs in which he follows a national football goalkeeper turned leader in the Syrian resistance. The film was awarded a Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at Sundance earlier this year, and is available to watch online.


From Egypt, Nadine Salib's Mother of the Unborn (Om el Ghayeb) won the FIPRESCI award for Best Documentary. In southern Egypt, women who don't have any children are traditionally "om el ghayeb" or "mother of the unborn". "I wanted to make a film but I didn't want it to be anthropology, I wanted it to resemble the name," she told the festival in an interview. "I found Hanan... She has a very rich personality and very different ideas. I felt that her life didn't have all the drama [you might expect] of a woman who doesn't have any children in Upper Egypt."The film is the second to be produced by Cairo-based filmmaking collective Hassala to receive a FIPRESCI award, after its first production, Hala Lotfy's feature debut Coming Forth By Day, received one at Abu Dhabi in 2012. Mother of the Unborn will next screen in the Competition for First Appearance at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). 

In the New Horizons competition, Best Director from the Arab World went to Lyes Salem for The Man from Oran. The film, a political drama that looks at Algeria's struggle against colonialism through the eyes of two friends, is scheduled for a release in Algeria and France mid-November.

Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar's Theeb won both FIPRESCI Award for Best Narrative Film and Best Film from the Arab World. Set in 1916 in a remote corner of the Ottoman Empire, the film follows a young Bedouin boy called Theeb (wolf, in Arabic) across the desert as he follows his older brother accompany a British officer to an old water well.

To prepare his film, the director lived in a village in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan for a year, he told Euromed Audiovisual this summer in Venice, where the film won the Orizzonti Award for Best Director. "[The Bedouin] grew passionate about our project because they saw it as a way of preserving their culture. So we formed a partnership with the Bedouin where we developed the story together, based on our mutual desire for authenticity. As we learned about their folklore and traditions, the drama and depth of our screenplay evolved. Their contribution pushed us past the confines of a formulaic film and into a living, breathing world." The film is next screening at the Cairo International Film Festival.


Images from The Valley, Mother of the Unborn, Theeb and The Wanted 18


Ghassan Salhab's The Valley -- trailer (Arabic with English subtitles):


Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan's The Wanted 18 -- teaser (Arabic with English subtitles):


Lyes Salem's The Man from Oran -- trailer (Arabic with French subtitles):


Talal Derki's Return to Homs -- trailer (Arabic with English subtitles):



Nadine Salib's Mother of the Unborn -- trailer (Arabic with English subtitles):

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