Iraqi film 'Hanging Gardens' and Oscar shortlisted 'The Blue Caftan' win big at the 7th Critics Awards in Cannes

'Harka' leading man Adam Bessa as well as Tunisian filmmaker Youssef Chebbi also walked away with awards, during the ceremony held at the Arab Cinema Center.
Iraqi film 'Hanging Gardens' and Oscar shortlisted 'The Blue Caftan' win big at the 7th Critics Awards in Cannes

The Arab Cinema Center's Critics Awards were handed out this week and among the big winners were some festival favorites and award nominated titles.

The annual ceremony has been held on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival since 2015. It is organized by Mad Solutions in partnership with the IEFTA and the Arab Cinema Center.

Iraqi filmmaker Ahmed Yassin Aldaradji's Hanging Gardens won the award for best film, while Tunisian filmmaker Youssef Chebbi received the best director award for his film Ashkal. Best actor and best actress, respectively, went to Adam Bessa for his performance in the Tunisian drama Harka and Lubna Azabal for her performance in The Blue Caftan. The film's co-writers, husband and wife team Maryam Touzani (she is also the director of the film) and Nabil Ayouch were awarded best screenplay.

Hanging Gardens tells the story of a young Iraqi rubbish picker who discovers an American sex doll in the Baghdad dumps and thus finds himself in a place where friends become enemies and nothing is certain anymore.

Ashkal instead follows an investigation when the body of a caretaker is found interred in the middle of a construction site in the gardens of Carthage, within a new district where modern buildings are juxtaposed with abandoned sites and wastelands.

The Blue Caftan was Morocco's submission to the Oscar race this year and was shortlisted but didn't make the final cut. This was a year particularly rich with international titles and this win should make it all sweeter. The story is about a couple who run a caftan shop in one of Morocco's oldest medinas, and find their lives turned upside down by the arrival of an apprentice. The film also stars Palestinian thespian Saleh Bakri.

A woman DoP won best cinematography, Virginie Surdej from Poland, who shot Touzani's film The Blue Caftan. Foragers -- depicting the dramas around the practice of foraging for wild edible plants by Palestinians, with wry humor and a meditative pace -- directed by Palestinian filmmaker Jumana Manna won the award for best documentary. French-Tunisian composer Amine Bouhafa was awarded the prize for best music for his work on Under the Fig Trees by Erige Sehiri.

This year's international jury panel was made up of 193 film critics from 72 countries.

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