When Diab learned he won the festival's $100,000 prize Saturday, he said he had about $20 left in his bank account, The Indianapolis Star reported.
"Funny enough, this was the end of my savings," Diab said.
Diab didn't expect to win any prize at the festival as "Cairo 678," a film about sexual harassment in Egypt, was not completed in the time frame allowed by the festival's official rules.
The filmmaker's wife, Sarah Goher, contacted Heartland officials months ago, saying they wanted to submit Diab's film, reasoning that they would have submitted the film a year earlier, when it would have been eligible, but Diab was participating in the 2011-2012 Egyptian revolution.
"We thought that was as good an excuse as we've ever heard," said Tim Irwin, Heartland Truly Moving Pictures artistic director.
"They were changing the world," added Louise Henderson, vice president of operations.
Diab was one of the string of filmmakers honored at the Heartland Film Festival's awards ceremony Saturday at Old National Centre.
T.C. Johnstone's "Rising From Ashes" won the $25,000 for the Best Documentary Feature and Timothy Reckart's "Head Over Heels" received the $10,000 Vision Award for Best Short Film.