Just like the elf queen Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett was the picture of serenity as she returned to the IWC Filmmaker Award Gala in Dubai on Saturday.
It was chaotic on the red carpet; photographers were screaming her name, reporters were thrusting microphones in her face and the PRs surrounding her were aggressively trying to quash questions and usher her inside. But trust the Australian actress, dressed in a sleeveless black jumpsuit, to remain unflappable.
For the second consecutive year, the actress was heading the jury to select a talented filmmaker from the region and was on call to present the winner a cash prize of $100,000 (Dh367,000).
“I was so impressed by this year’s admissions and their energy. The voices in those films were diverse and this prize money is a step in the right direction for many filmmakers whose budgets aren’t huge,” said Blanchett.
The initiative is a collaboration between Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen and the Dubai International Film Festival. It was also her way to pay forward.
“I had people encouraging me when I was young. So I am just happy to help emerging filmmakers from this region … The prize money is like a vote of confidence for them and a step in the right direction,” said Blanchett. But deciding on a winner was not easy as the four films short-listed from this region were “sophisticated” and “executed with great care”.
“Finally, it was a unique voice that said something fresh and personal that won the prize.” Like most visitors to Dubai, she was smitten by the city.
Emirati filmmaker Waleed Al Shehhi won the award for his film Dolphins. Written by author and poet Ahmad Salmeen, Dolphins revolves around a divorced ambulance driver and his son, Saud, who’s grappling with the separation. The uncertainty around Saud’s life propels him to embark on an unusual adventure with his friend Hilal. The winner beat three finalists: Saudi Arabian director Faiza Ambah’s A Reverence for Spiders, Kuwaiti director Zeyad Al Husaini’s How I Got There and Hussain Al Riffaei’s Siege.
“I have been here three times. It’s my guilty pleasure and I have three boys. I love what I do but I am busy, so any free time is incredibly precious,” said Blanchett, who bonded with CEO of IWC Schaffhausen Georges Kern over their shared love of cinema.
Her message to the UAE for the next year?
“I hope there’s peace and prosperity. Dubai is like a perfect gateway to the Middle East and Asia,” said Blanchett. She wasn’t the sole fan of the city that night. British singer-songwriter and X Factor runner-up Rebecca Ferguson could hardly contain her excitement at her first Dubai visit. She was flown in to perform at the gala.
“I feel lucky to be invited and am happy that they have chosen me. When they told me that it was going to be Dubai, I went ‘yay’. My brother used to live here and I always wanted to come over. It’s so gorgeous,” said Ferguson. Clad in Herve Leger, she also offered style tips.
“Be confident in what you wear,” said Ferguson. This philosophy also extends to her work. The single mum from Liverpool promised that her second album, Freedom, is stronger than her first attempt.
“It’s a lot more modern and feisty. I went through a crazy time last year but I grew up a lot as a person. I feel this new album is a lot stronger physically and it’s all about empowerment. It’s about empowering people not to give up and for people to be confident,” said Ferguson, who has dealt with some harsh criticism in her role as a TV reality show hopeful.
The night also saw stars including Diff Lifetime Achievement winner Martin Sheen, actor Michael B Jordan and Turkish talent Meltem Cumbul and Murat Yildirim walk the red carpet.