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Variety Presents Middle East Filmmaker of the Year Award to Asghar Farhadi and Salutes Five Arab Producers to Watch at ADFF 2011

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) is pleased to announce that celebrated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi will receive this year's Variety Middle East Filmmaker of the Year award at its ongoing fifth edition (October 13-22). Variety Arabia, the leading entertainment trade publication's new venture for the MENA region, will also be hosting a special reception in honor of its Five Arab Producers to Watch, selected in partnership with ADFF.

Farhadi is the fourth filmmaker to receive Variety's prestigious award at the Festival.Farhadi's breakout film About Elly had its Middle East premiere at ADFF in 2009 and Variety recently compared the director's suspenseful psychological dramas to those of Alfred Hitchcock. His latest film, A Separation, is Iran's official entry for the 2012 foreign language Oscar™ and will be screened as part of the Festival's Narrative Competition lineup.

Renowned for his engrossing storytelling and meticulous character development, Farhadi is one of the most accessible Iranian art-house directors. Building on suspense and psychological depth, his films have mesmerized audiences in Iran and all around the world. Family crises, issues with the justice system and topics such as gender, faith and class are recurring themes in Farhadi's films, which often feature twisting plots and sudden changes of perspectives, continuously challenging viewers
to question and adapt their moral judgments.

Born in Isfahan in 1972, Farhadi started out by taking courses at the Iranian Young Cinema Society. While studying theater and film at Tehran University, he wrote and directed plays, and made short films, before going on to work in Iranian television. His first feature, Dancing in the Dust (2003), won both popular and critical acclaim, screening at festivals internationally. Farhadi followed up with the equally successful films Beautiful City (2004) and Fireworks Wednesday (2006), making a name for himself one of Iran's major directors.

In 2009, Farhadi captured the attention of the film world with About Elly, starring the fabulous Golshifteh Farahani. The film, which which won the Berlinale's Silver Bear for best director, tells the story of a group of young well-to-do Iranians whose trip to the Caspian Sea quickly descends into conflict and tragedy as the characters are confronted with their society's culture of everyday deceit.

Farhadi's most recent work, A Separation, is one of ADFF's highlights this year. The film's premiere at Berlin proved a momentous triumph: it was named Best Film and its excellent ensemble cast received both the major acting prizes - a sweep no previous Iranian film has ever earned at a Western film festival. A Separation is a gripping drama surrounding a secular middle-class family that winds up in conflict with a poor religious family. Driven by questions of loyalty, truth and honor, A Separation shines a light on the complexities and contradictions of contemporary Iranian society.

"Farhadi is a master of tacit commentary, whose narratives have given us some of the most acute insights into everyday life in Iran, on a par with - and sometimes excelling - documentaries on the subject. He is now on his fifth feature and I can only hope he will continue to skillfully navigate the fine line that has made him a national treasure and an international success. His tightly-woven and superbly casted dramas have engrossed people from all kinds of backgrounds and we are simply delighted to welcome him back to the Festival," said Peter Scarlet, ADFF's Executive Director.

Variety international director Alberto Lopez: "A Separation is a shining testament to the power of cinema to transcend borders. Asghar Farhadi has created a universal and unforgettable story that lingers long in the memory."

Variety's Middle East Filmmaker of the Year award will be presented at an invitationonly event on Thursday, October 20, 12:00 noon, at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's Saker Ballroom A.

Variety Arabia Salutes Five Promising Arab Producers

Launched under the banner of Variety's new MENA monthly, Variety Arabia, Five Arab Producers to Watch is a celebration of innovative, up-and-coming producers who are notable for their talent and fresh approach. Selected in partnership with ADFF, the list includes producers from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds.

Despite ongoing instability in his home country of Palestine, Saed Andoni has become an accomplished writer, editor, producer and director. After studying documentary filmmaking in London, he produced documentaries, dramas, and animation films, including Ahmed Habash's Fatenah (2009). In 2011, he produced The Wanted 18, which received a development grant from SANAD, ADFF's fund for Arab filmmakers.

2011 has been busy for Moroccan producer Lamia Chraibi. She produced Narjiss Nejjar's The Rif Lover, Hisham Lasri's The End and Simo Achaour's The Film. In the past, she has produced Hicham Lasri's 99, which recently received a SANAD development grant, and Simo Achaour's Once Upon a Father. Her current project is Michelle Medina's documentary All I Wanna Do, about a parking guard and his teenage son, who form a hip-hop group.

Atia Jabarah Al Daradji is known for his ability to combine western film practice with his own self-styled, hard-line approach. In 2009, he produced his brother Mohamed's breakout film Son of Babylon and in 2010, the brothers received a post-production grant from SANAD for their co-directorial effort In My Mother's Arms, which world premiered in Toronto last month.

Rula Nasser is passionate about telling the stories of her home country Jordan. She started out by producing BBC documentaries, before joining the Royal Film Commission and later running the RAWI Sundance Screenwriters' Lab. Her first feature, Mohammad Hushki's Transit Cities, took two awards at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2010. Her production company The Imaginarium focuses on developing and financing Jordanian cinema.

Cairo-based actor, producer and director Amr Waked starred in films such as Syriana (2005) and The Aquarium (2008) and his production company zad has made a number of award-winning short films, documentaries and TV campaigns. Waked is both producer and star of his latest project, R for Revolution, by Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim El-Batout, scheduled for release early next year.

A special reception in honor of Variety Arabia's Five Producers to Watch takes place on Sunday, October 16, at 9:00 p.m., at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's Saker Ballroom A.

"Over the past four years our partnership with Variety has gone from strength to strength and we are excited to be expanding it through the launch of Variety Arabia's Five Arab Producers to Watch. Variety's pioneering coverage of Middle Eastern cinema has helped to bring international attention to some of the great directorial talents of this region, including Nadine Labaki from Lebanon, Amin Matalqa from Jordan, Elia Suleiman from Palestine and Mohamed Jabarah Al Daradji from Iraq. We hope that their new initiative will do the same for regional producers," said Eissa Saif Rashed Al Mazrouei, Director of Special Projects for ADACH.

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