The Beirut International Film Festival (BIFF) is an event that offers young filmmakers from all around the world exposure to get their name and works known. Sponsored by Nostalgie, TV5MONDE, AlMustaqbal, touch, and SGBL through the steady support of its CEO and Chairman Antoun Sehnaoui, among many others, this year’s BIFF celebrated its 20th anniversary, starting on the 4th of October until the 12th.
After days of film screenings, yesterday’s BIFF Awards winners were announced. The jury was composed of notable people in the film industry such as Santiago Amigorena, a highly acclaimed Argentine screenwriter, film producer, director and actor, who has worked in France as a scriptwriter on more than 30 feature films with acclaimed directors. Also a member of the jury is Vahina Giocante, a renowned Fench actress who starred in many films, sharing the screen with well-known actors and collaborated with notable directors, such as Benoit Jacquot and Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri. The latter was also a member of the jury, having his first feature film, West Beirut, premier at the Cannes Director’s Fortnight, and recently, The Attack and The Insult. Those last two films were selected in some of the best international film festivals, such as the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival among many others. The final member of the jury, who was not present yesterday, was the jury’s co-president, Jonathan Nossiter, an American prize winning film director whose films were nominated for the Golden Bear at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival and won many awards such as the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for Best film and Best Screenplay for his film “Sunday”.
This being said, the categories that were competing were the Middle East Short Films as well as the Middle East Documentaries. Before announcing the winners, Giocante said that: “All the films are amazing but sadly we have to make choices”.
The Aleph for the 3rd Best Short Film went to “The Guy Came On Horseback” by Hossein Rabiei Dastjerdi from Iran, a film that tells the story of a disable young man who falls in love with his neighbor’s daughter, causing conflict between the two families. The Aleph for the 2nd Best Short Film went to “Passenger” by Cem Ozay from Turkey, a film that follows the story of a truck driver and his son, who he takes away from his ex-wife in jail.
Before announcing the winner of the Aleph for the Best Short Film, the Jury Special Prize for Short Film was given to “The Bliss Of Being No One” by Bader Alhomoud of Saudi Arabia, a plot that follows the unexpected encounter of a young man who lost his family with an old man who lost an eye.
The SGBL Award for the Best Short Film, given away by Joana Balogiou – Head of Corporate Communications at SGBL – went to “A Girl In The Room” by Karim Lakzadeh from Iran. This film was given the Best Director Award at the Mowj Short Film Festival, as well as the Audience Award at the Tehran Short Film Festival. The film follows the story of an elderly man who is working at a guesthouse with his friends. Their lives take a turn when his daughter announces that she will be visiting him after not seeing each other for 25 years.
Last but not least, the Audience Vote for Best Feature Film was given to “I Am Not Your Negro” by Raoul Peck from Haiti. The director revisits the social and political struggles of African-Americans in the last three decades by using the words and writings of the author James Baldwin.
The final category is that of the Middle East Documentaries, where the Gold Aleph for Best Documentary went to “No Place For Tears” by Reyan Tuvi of Turkey that focuses on the city of Kobane in Syria, devastated by war and looking for a possibility of a return and revival.
Those were the award-winning films of this year’s BIFF. We cannot wait until the announcement of next year’s BIFF event and the many films and directors we will witness.