Over 12,000 excited film fans crowded onto Abu Dhabi’s glamorous Al Sahil beach on the weekend for the very first TROPFEST Arabia short film festival.
Jassem Al Jabbouri from Baghdad took home first prize with his film Flock of Stars, judged by Tropfest Australia’s winning filmmaker Damon Gameau, Tropfest Director and Founder John Polson, Egyptian superstar Ahmed Helmy, and Arabian celebrities from across the region.
As part of the winning booty, Al Jabbouri will be flown to Sydney next February 2012 to join Gameau and Polson for the festival’s huge 20th birthday celebrations and to judge the competition.
Joined by his girlfriend, actress Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, Gameau took the trip to the UAE as part of his 2011 prize, in addition to cash.
Al Jabbouri beat eleven other finalists from across the Middle East and North Africa. The film had the audience awe struck with its beautiful animated story that had a strong environmental message.
“I’m so excited to win first place at the first ever TROPFEST Arabia,” said Al Jabbouri. “This is the greatest achievement of my life and a major step for my future career. I’ve also never been to Australia or LA; so I’m really excited to be getting this incredible opportunity to travel and network.”
Runners up Lubna Saeed Al Amoodi, a young female finalist from the UAE took out second place with her film ‘Smile’ and Ahmed Ghazal from Egypt received large cheers from the crowd with a film that looked at the power of social networking, and how things can easily be misunderstood.
Polson, said: “What a great night, great films, great audience, great venue and great winner – I can’t wait for next year. The crowd was electric and the films dealt with a wide range of issues that each told a great story. At the end of the day, the telling of a great story is what Tropfest is all about.”
Judge and Tropfest Australia winner Gameau says, “This was such a terrific experience and a cultural eye opener. Short films are such a great way to have a voice heard and film makers in that Arabic region certainly have some powerful things to say. It was a real treat and they really embraced the festival and made us feel incredibly welcome. I think it will become a very important cultural event for the Emerites.”
Since winning Movie Extra Tropfest Australia 2011, Gameau’s animation short Animal Beatbox, has been screened at festivals around the world, winning the Special Jury Recognition Prize at the Aspen International
Film Festival in April this year. It was also handpicked by documentarian Michael Moore to screen at his Traverse City film festival in Michigan, in July this year.
The twelve Arabian finalists were selected from more than a hundred entrants by Polson and his Arabia co-director, Egyptian comedian and actor Ahmed Helmy, along with a jury of celebrities from across the region, based on their creativity and originality.
As per Tropfest the world over, films must be no longer than seven minutes including titles and credits; contain the Tropfest Signature Item or TSI, and may not have screened previously in public. “Light bulb” – is the TSI for Tropfest Australia’s 20th birthday in 2012, and the NUMBER 2 was announced the TSI for Tropfest Arabia next year.
Tropfest Arabia runs in partnership with Abu Dhabi based media agency twofour54, with the aim of showcasing local filmmaking talent from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
Download the full media release here.