Under the Bombs, a movie about interfaith love during the 2006 war in Lebanon, was named best film in Dubai's awards for Arab cinema, in a year when films about conflict abounded.
Lebanon's Nada Abou Farhat also won the best actress award on Saturday for her role as Zeina, a Shi'ite Muslim divorcee who heads to southern Lebanon in the midst of the fighting to search for her son and falls in love with a Christian taxi driver.
"I felt the hatred building inside of me and I wanted to get it out ... I wanted to make something against hate," Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi told the audience on picking up his Muhr Award, shaped like a horse's head.
Both Aractingi and Abou Farhat dedicated their awards to those who died in the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas that displaced hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and saw many of their homes destroyed.
Aractingi's last film Bosta, Lebanon's entry for the Academy Awards foreign-language film in 2006, was a popular musical comedy and Under the Bombs was a surprise choice for many critics who felt it was picked for its subject matter.
"Aesthetically speaking, I thought a number of other films were better than Under the Bombs, both Yellow House, which took no prizes, in either Cairo or here, and the Secret of the Grain," said Beirut-based film critic Jim Quilty.
"There are two main criteria in judging a film; you can look at the topic or at more aesthetic aspects and the two films that have taken gold in Dubai for the first two years suggest the story is more important."
The Secret of the Grain, Tunisian Abdellatif Kechiche's well-received film about reuniting family, took the bronze award this year. Nouri Bouzid's The Making of, which centres on a film shoot in Tunisia as the Iraq war unfolds, won silver.
The Dubai film festival, in its fourth year, launched the Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema in 2006.
The festival attracts many Arab filmmakers because its industry section encourages international co-productions and its trophies come with cash prizes of up to $50,000.
Lebanon's 15-year civil war has long been the main source of inspiration for Lebanese filmmakers.
Borhane Alaouie's post-civil war film Khalass scooped best screenplay and best editing. Three documentaries that screened at Dubai also explore the 2006 war, but won no awards.
Mai Masri's 33 Days follows a group of Lebanese journalists and activists as the war unfolds.
Anwar Brahem's Words in the Wake of War mixes interviews with six well-known Lebanese intellectuals and artists with footage from the 2006 war, the civil war and happier times.
Best documentary went to Karim Goury's Made in Egypt, about the French-Egyptian director's search for his heritage. Silver and bronze went to Palestinian films; Maria's Grotto by Bouthaina Khoury Kanaan and Shadow of Absence by Nasri Hajjaj. (Reuters)
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