The four-day event saw experts from around the world judge more than 60 films in categories ranging from works by independent filmmakers to prominent production companies.

"We have replaced words for images and opened new horizons," Aljazeera general manager Wadah Khanfar said at the closing ceremony on Thursday.

"This was a chance to open doors for directors," he said.

Khanfar said Aljazeera was committed to expanding next year's festival to include a wider selection of work, a stronger international focus, with international land and satellite broadcasters set to take part.

Festival awards

While showcasing the works of different production companies and individual works, the festival also gave out awards for outstanding achievement in several genres.

Egyptian actor Nur al-Sharif
accepted for Living Among Us

For the documentary films genre, the gold prize went to Basim Fayad's Roads for a Lesser Sunset, which is about four Arab men who travel across Iraq from east to west, filming the first images of the country after the war.

The silver prize went to Saif al-Din Hasan's The Snake Den, about a Sudanese village which derives its income from snake hunting.

Saud Muhanna's The Prisoners' Ambassador, which garnered the bronze prize, tells the story of a jailed Palestinian woman who takes under her wing many other compatriot prisoners.
 
Independent films

In the independent filmmakers genre, the gold prize went to Muhmud Sulaiman's Living Among Us.

The film focuses on the trials and tribulations of an Egyptian woman living in one of Cairo's slums struggling to make ends meet for her children after her husband abandons the family.

The prize was accepted by famed Egyptian actor and producer Nur al-Sharif.

The silver prize went to Najda Ismail Anzur's A Vision for Saladdin - a tale of two writers, a Syrian and an American, who begin a discussion over the internet bringing common ground to East-West perspectives.

The bronze prize went to Yahya Barakat's God's House, which explores the Israeli siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2000.

In the Social Topics competition, an honorary award was given to Hadaf Television's Autumn of Life.

Amir visit

On Thursday, Qatar's Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani made an unscheduled visit to watch Jenin, a powerful film depicting the plight of Palestinians living in the Jenin refugee camp in the wake of its destruction by Israeli occupation forces in 2002.

Shaikh Hamad watched Jenin, a
film on the refugee-camp attack

Other films open to the public included Tsunami, an independent Japanese production that examines the science behind the December 2004 disaster that struck Southeast Asia.  

Two films that provoked strong audience reaction were Fourth World War - a stirring portrayal of resistance against oppression in countries such as Palestine and Argentina, and Weapons of Mass Deception, a film that examined the US media's coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Exchanging ideas

However, the highlight of the festival proved to be the open forums where participants openly debated and exchanged ideas.

"It's a good opportunity to hold a dialogue between Arabs and foreigners," said Anzur.

For many non-Arab journalists, the festival was also a chance to learn more about Aljazeera.

"It's been an amazing honour for us to be here. We came here to meet Aljazeera and to become participants in this amazing phenomenon in Doha," Richard Rowley, a director of Fourth World War, said.

"The most exciting thing is the launch of the English-language channel - that is an amazing thing on the tip of everyone's lips ... and no one has the audacity and the passion to realise it like Aljazeera does," he added.

Humayun Chaudhry and Christian Henderson contributed to this article