Nayla Al Khaja Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Winners of the Emirates Film Competition (EFC) at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) beamed with pride as they walked the red carpet on Thursday night after a week filled with film screenings and glamorous red carpet events.

The top award in the short narrative competition went to the film, Eye & Mermaid, which also won for the Best Cinematography.

The Best Emirati Film award went to The Neighbour.

Eye & Mermaid is is a bit of an experiment in magical realism.

"I never thought it would get around in the gulf region in specific, but it did," said Shahad Ameed, director of Eye & Mermaid. "People actually accepted it. That’s a win in its own that the gulf region is ready for a different kind of cinema.”

She added that the biggest challenge in making the film was shooting underwater – a task she had never done before.

Unexpected honour

Winner of best Emirati film, Nayla Al Khaja, said she had not expected to win especially because her name was announced towards the end of the ceremony.

“The film is an extension of everyday life in the UAE, and what we take for granted; it’s a very simple story. The film was made with so much love, and I guess we saw the appreciation tonight, so that’s wonderful. It’s kind of close to the heart; and it’s very local,” Al Khaja said.

The award for Best Script went to Cholo, while the first award for the short documentary competition went to Marwan The Boxer.

The New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi Aspiring Film Maker Award went to Hidden Songs of the Past, and Youssef.

Internationally, the best narrative short film went to The Man with a Dog, the best documentary to Love in the Time of March Madness, and the best animated short film to Me + Her.

Meanwhile, it was Father that won Best Film from the Arab World, and Jeremy Rochigneux that won Best Producer Award.

As for Best Producer from Arab World, it went to Abdullah Al Kaabi, who also won second place in the Emirates Film Competition Short Narrative category.

Great feeling

“It feels great [to win], and it was a gruesome project. It always feels good to have appreciation and recognition for all the work we put into it. I would have been happy with half a prize, so to have two is fantastic,” Al Kaabi said.

Having shot his film, Koshk, in northern Iran, he said it was very challenging.

“It’s not every day that you have a filmmaker from the UAE going to Iran to shoot a film, so that was very hard. I had to risk it because I couldn’t afford to shoot it with the budget here (in the UAE), so it was much cheaper [in Iran]. That’s how far I would go for a film,” Al Kaabi said.