Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah was awarded the Middle East Filmmaker of the Year award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) on Monday.
Nasrallah was given the prestigious award by Variety, a leading American magazine.
His latest film, Baad El-Mawkea (After the Battle), captures the aftermath of the Battle of the Camel during the Egyptian Revolution. The film stars Menna Shalaby and Baseem Samra.
Samra portrays impoverished Pyramids tour guide Mahmoud. He is coerced into taking part in the brutal attack on anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir Square. He is badly beaten by protesters and afterwards he and his family are taunted and ridiculed because the attack is widely thought to have been instigated by agents of the Mubarak regime.
Nasrallah, who was born in Egypt in 1952 and whose other works include the 2009 film Sheherazade, Tell me a Story and The City, which won the special jury prize at Locarno in 1999, said the men who took part in the attack, mostly tour guides from the Pyramids area, were easy targets for those who wanted to exploit them.
"They were extremely worried about their livelihood. Revolution means no more tourists, it means hunger. So they were easily manipulated and pushed into battles that were not theirs," Nasrallah told Reuters.
"Suddenly the counter-revolution was personified by these people. And of course it's a pretty image, a super production, it looks like cowboys and Indians, it looks mediaeval," he said in the interview on the sidelines of the festival.
But Mahmoud's encounter with the wealthy and educated Reem reveals the enormous gulf separating the social classes in the Arab world's most populous country. Reem, a glamorous woman born to Egypt's social elite, is at once fascinated by Mahmoud and filled with pity for him.
"She goes there full of good intentions and she thinks that talking to poor people is like training a horse, but she discovers it's different. We've all been through it...I know how hard it is," Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah was presented the award at an invitation-only reception at Emirates Palace. Previous recipients of the award include Ashgar Farhadi, Mohamad Al-Daradji, Nadine Labaki, Amin Matalqa and Elia Suleiman.
Baad El-Mawkea first debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, making Nasrallah the first Arab director to participate at Cannes' official competition after the late Youssef Chahine. His first film, Sarikat Sayfeya (Summer Thefts), screened in the parallel director section of the festival in 1988.