(photo credit: )
BEST PICTURE: Indiana Jones and the Temple Mount of Doom (Produced and directed by Steven Spielberg) - Though at first Spielberg seemed to be playing it safe by returning to the popular Indiana Jones adventure series, this follow-up project to the controversial Munich proves to be an equally timely and provocative film. The story carries the swashbuckling archeologist into the present day, with Harrison Ford playing an aging Indy called out of retirement when the lost Ark of the Covenant he discovered in Raiders suddenly resurfaces in Jerusalem.
After arriving in Israel, Indy learns that the Ark is being used by a scheming Mossad agent (Geoffrey Rush, reprising his Munich role) to incite far-right Jewish extremists in a plot to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount and spark a new Israeli-Arab War. After discovering archeological evidence that the Palestinians really are descended from the ancient Canaanites, Indy teams up with a beautiful Hamas leader (Salma Hayek, projecting plenty of sex appeal even under a chador) to thwart the Mossad plan.
"I think of this film as another prayer for peace," comments Spielberg, "albeit one with all the action, excitement, romance, occult elements, and even the odd Nazi or two, that we've come to expect from an Indiana Jones adventure."
BEST DIRECTOR: Hany Abu-Assad for Die Hard 4: Die Hard for Jihad - When the Palestinian director of Paradise Now agreed to make his Hollywood film debut with the latest installment of the Die Hardseries, many were quick to charge him with selling out. But Abu-Assad uses the opportunity to brilliantly subvert the traditional Hollywood action thriller, bringing an entirely new perspective to a tired genre.
As the film begins, we learn that Said, the Palestinian protagonist of Paradise Now, has miraculously survived his suicide-bombing attempt in Tel Aviv, and has emigrated to Detroit to begin a new life in America. Though at first Said forgoes activism in his new home, after watching a TV broadcast of Da Ali G. Show that he considers an unacceptable insult to Islam, he decides the only appropriate and just response is to blow himself up in Pontiac Stadium during a Detroit Lions football game.
Standing in his way though is fanatical police detective John McClane, played once again by Bruce Willis, this time in a career-rejuvenating performance that brings out all of the latent imperialist-Zionistic brutality inherent in the McClane character. Abu-Assad's superb cinematic skills will put audiences on the edge of their seats and have them standing and cheering Said on at the film's explosive finish, as the plucky suicide bomber overcomes the evil McClane and other insurmountable odds to see that Islamic justice is done.
BEST ACTRESS: Charlize Theron, for So Su-ha! - Proving once again she is far more than just a pretty face and great body, actress Charlize Theron pulls off another astonishing chameleon act, gaining 30 pounds, wearing a false nose and learning fluent Arabic, to play Suha Arafat in this charming remake of the classic romance/thriller Charade. Suha, a recently widowed woman living the good life in Paris, suddenly finds herself pursued by an array of motley characters convinced she knows the whereabouts of some $9 billion in foreign aid money to the Palestinian Authority that went missing in foreign bank accounts over the years.
Soon after, a mysterious handsome stranger (George Clooney, channeling Cary Grant) pops up offering to protect Suha and help her recover the missing cash. As romance between them blooms, she starts to wonder if he is a CIA agent, a Mossad operative, a Fatah militant, or her knight in shining armor. The highlight of this delightful Parisian romp is undoubtedly Theron's astonishing embodiment of the real-life widow of the Rais; "She's more Suha than Suha!" declared an astonished Abu Mazen after seeing the film.
BEST FOREIGN FILM: Meta Enta Kafir Shirrir (from The Islamic Republic of Tora-Bora) - Near-unanimous critical acclaim greeted this first film produced in this semi-autonomous region on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and directed by Mustafa al-Hamzi-Hindi, whose only previous work behind the camera was a series of short videos starring Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.
Released by Miramax in the US under the English title Tender Strands of Dawn (although the original Arabic title translates roughly as "Die you evil infidel"), this is a sensitive, moving examination of the life of Muhammad, a veteran Taliban fighter-turned-farmer now simply trying to raise his family in peace.
After spotting NATO fighter planes flying overhead, Muhammad decides he has no choice but to leave his quiet life behind, kidnap the first Western journalist he can find, and exact a just retribution. When CNN anchor Anderson Cooper falls into Muhammad's hands, an unexpectedly heart-warming relationship develops between them, until it comes to an abrupt end soon after Cooper confesses his Jewish roots in front of the video camera.
Called by The Guardian "an insightful and delicate examination of East-West cultural cross-currents that cuts right to the bone," this film has already garnered several international awards, including the "Golden Scimitar Award" at the Teheran Film Festival.
BEST SONG: "Biladi, My Lady" (Love theme from So Su-ha!): Words and music - Ibrahim Hefeth Touqan, Muhammad Salim Flayfel and Lionel Richie.
This clever new arrangement combining the Palestinian national anthem "Biladi, Biladi" together with the pop-classic "Three Times A Lady" and sung with passion by Celine Dion, not only proved the perfect love theme for So Su-ha!, but scaled the pop charts for weeks.
"My country, My country / Thanks for the times that you've given me / the memories are all in my mind / And now that we've come to the end of our rainbow / There's something I must say out loud / With my determination, my fire and the volcano of my revenge / I have climbed the mountains and fought the wars / I have conquered the impossible, and crossed the frontiers / When we are together the moments I cherish / With every beat of my heart / to touch you, to hold you, to feel you, to need you / There's nothing to keep us apart / My country, my country, my nation of eternity / I swear under the shade of the flag / I will live as a fighter, I will strive as a fighter, I will die as a fighter, until I come back / Palestine is my home, Palestine is my fire, Palestine is my revenge / Yes, you're once, twice, three times my country / And I love you."