Posted on October 14, 2015

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen, Official ‘Festival-Time’ Partner and ‘Supporting Sponsor’ of DIFF, are pleased to announce the shortlist for the prestigious IWC Filmmaker Award which supports filmmakers from the Gulfin taking their project from script to the big screen. Three talented directors will present their projects at the 12th Dubai International Film Festival from 9 to 16 December 2015, with the winner receiving a cash prize of USD 100,000.

The nominees for the highly-coveted award are: Qatari director Khalifa Al Muraikhi, for his project “Sahaab”; Saudi director Shahad Ameen,for her feature “Scales”; and Emirati director Layla Kayliffor“ The Letter Writer”. The winner of the IWC Filmmaker Award will be announced at an IWC gala event held during the festival on 10 December 2015. The shortlisted nominees hoping to take the ultimate accolade will have their films reviewed by an esteemed panel of film industry experts. Jury members of previous filmmaker awards have included renowned cinema and stage actresses and directors,such as Emily Blunt, Marc Forster and Cate Blanchett. Allentries will be scrutinized and critiqued to determine the overall potential of each script and the project as a whole.

“IWC has proved its passion for storytelling and its devotion to the film industry, and we are proud to be supporting the industry locally with a grant which we will offer to the winner. This is the fourth consecutive year we are hosting the IWC Filmmaker Award during the Dubai International Film Festival and I am happy to see that we are receiving more submissions every year” said IWC Regional Brand Director, Luc Rochereau.

Commenting on the impact which the award continues to have on the film industry in the region, Masoud Amralla Al Ali, DIFF’s Artistic Director, said: “Thanks to the IWC Filmmaker Award, both emerging and established directors have an unparalleled opportunity for global recognition and to take their projects from script to screen.The Gulf region is rich in culture and stories, which provides an inspiring canvas for regional filmmakers to bring their ideas to life. That is what we aim to celebrate at the festival and beyond, by providing a platform to share their gripping tales with the global community.”

During the 11th DIFF last year, Golden Globe winner and IWC Schaffhausen brand ambassador Emily Blunt presented the IWC Filmmaker Award to Abdullah Boushahri for his film “The Water”. At the same event, Emirati filmmaker Waleed Al Shehhi – who received the IWC Filmmaker Award in 2013 from the Head of the IWC Filmmakers Jury and IWC brand ambassador Cate Blanchett – premiered his feature film “Dolphins” to a sold-out audience.The IWC Filmmaker Award, launched in 2012, is a collaboration between IWC Schaffhausen and DIFF, and offers a cash prize of USD 100,000 to help one groundbreaking filmmaker from the Middle East transfer their project from script to the big screen.

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The nominees and their projects:

Khalifa Al Muraikhi: “Sahaab”

Renowned Qatari director Khalifa Al Muraikhi comes to the festival having already made a name for himself in the industry, winning awards at the Cairo International Film Festival 2000 and the Oman International Documentary Festival 2003 for “The Blind Girl” and “Threads Beneath Sands”, respectively. The director’s latest project,“Sahaab”, is another profound work which tells the tale of aspiring falconers preparing to take part in a race. When one of them loses his falcon,Sahaab, in the desert, the trio must face a variety of obstacles on their journey to find the lost bird in time for the contest.

Shahad Ameen: “Scales”

Shahad Ameen returns to DIFFthis year, having premiered her short film“Eye & Mermaid”at the festival in 2013. The Saudi director has previously been nominated for Best Short Film at the Stockholm Film Festival but will be looking to go one better at DIFF 2015 with “Scales”, a fantasy feature that follows the story of Hayat, a pre-adolescent teen faced with fulfilling her destiny as a hunted, yet free, mermaid. Designed to capture audiences’ imaginations, the feature sees two worlds collide and sets out to explore the contradictions between belonging and freedom, and traditions and revolution, in an attempt to find reconciliation.

Layla Kaylif: “The Letter Writer”

Aspiring Emirati director Layla Kaylif is the founder of the Dubai-based film production company Canopus Films, and the two have joined forces to develop the director’s latest feature,“The Letter Writer”. The film is a romantic drama which tells a story of deception and lies as a young boy, Khalifa,uses his skills as a professional letter writer for personal gain at the expense of his trusting customers. One such customer is Mr Mohamed, the owner of a drapery shop, whom Khalifa befriends and assists in corresponding with his secret love, Elli. However, when Khalifa catches a glimpse of Elli for the first time, he is instantly smitten and begins a secret and forbidden pursuit of Elli’s affections behind Mr Mohamed’s back.