The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival drew to a close last night with the Black Pearl Award ceremony. The Russian movie, Aleksei Fedorchenko’s Silent Souls, one of the 15 in Narrative Competition, took the top prize of $100,000. A deeply touching work on the heritage and rituals of a fast vanishing Russian tribe living in Volga, the film lyrically paints the enormity of love and loss. A husband still madly in love with his wife sets out to cremate her. He asks his colleague to come with him on his journey to a waterfront where he wants to hold the funeral according to the Merja custom. They begin their journey in a van, accompanied by the colleague’s birds in a cage that will end up pushing the men’s destiny to the brink.
Bahij Hojeij’s Here Comes the Rain won the Black Pearl Award of $ 100,000 for the best narrative feature in the Arab world. Set in Lebanon, where 10,000 people remain missing after the end of war in 1991, the movie is a haunting look at a man who returns home after 20 years.
Kidnapped and tortured, he finds his new life daunting, and his wife and children, now grown up beyond recognition, do not find it any easier to adjust to the new member in their family. Here Comes the Rain, told in a gently manner
nevertheless takes a hard look at what has become a nasty legacy of the war in Lebanon. Through the protagonist and the family that he has to get used to living, the script documents the traumatic pain the State has inflicted on individuals.
In the acting categories, Andrew Garfield walked away with the Best Actor Black Pearl of $25,000 for his role in Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, a British film that deals with the controversial subject of organ donation. As the young man bred to be an organ donor, eventually sacrificing his life so that others may live, Garfield injects a feeling of hopeless horror into his role, provoking questions on highly ethical/moral issues.
Lubna Azabal got the Best Actress Pearl of $25,000 for essaying a woman, who escapes honour killing only to walk into a nightmarish life of civil strife, pain and deception. In the end, her children must face a horrifying truth their own mother confronted years ago.
The five-member jury, headed by Luis Puenzo ( director/writer), comprised Faouzi Bensaidi (director/actor), Sulaf Fawakherji (actress), Siddiq Barmak (director/producer) and Karim Aïnouz (director/visual artist).
(Gautaman Bhaskaran covers several film festivals across continents, and is now at Abu Dhabi)