Dubai International Film Festival 2013
Posted on Friday December 13, 2013, 13:02 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
The ornately beaded curtain went up on the 10th Dubai International Film Festival on Friday. The Middle East’s premier movie bash was officially declared open by Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, before a packed house at the Madinat Arena, part of the vast and opulent Madinat Jumeirah resort complex, the festival’s headquarters.
During the opening ceremony, both Martin Sheen and esteemed Egyptian journalist Samir Farid, a pioneer of film criticism in the Arab world, presented with DIFF awards for Lifetime Achievement.
On the red carpet was Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe winning Palestinian writer-director Hany Abu-Assad whose film Omar kicked off proceedings properly with a gala screening. Accompanying him were Omar cast members Adam Bakri, Eyad Hourani and Waleed Zuaiter.
The Palestinian Oscar contender for Best Foreign Language Film, Omar is a hard-hitting story of love, friendship and betrayal set not so much against the backdrop of the Israeli Palestinian conflict but right in the middle of it; much of the action takes place in the shadow of the Israeli ‘Separation Wall’. Boasting outstanding performances, it’s a courageous and uncompromising film that has already attracted controversy and critical acclaim in equal measure.
The screening was followed by an appropriately swanky party, replete with fireworks and deafening covers band, at the Madinat’s fort island, a structure of dubious defensive wrth that dates all the way back to the early 21st Century (2003, to be precise).
Saturday’s gala screening at the Arena could hardly have been more different. Delighting another sell-out crowd, many of them toddlers in vivid pink dresses, was Frozen, Disney’s exceptionally charming update on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. Beautifully animated in 3D, it’s a film firmly in the classic Disney tradition, i.e. romantic, thrilling, funny, a little bit scary in places and graced with proper Disneyfied songs rather than soft pop twaddle from Sting or Elton John.
Later in the evening, the red carpet played host to Cate Blanchett, an IWC Friend Of The Brand, who presented the posh watch company’s Filmmaker Award to Waleed Al Shehhi for his in production film Dolphins. The award, decided on by a jury of international film biz experts, headed by Blanchett, carries with it a cash prize of Dh367,000 ($100,000). Shehhi was honoured at another classy shindig, this one at the One & Only Royal Mirage hotel, which featured a performance by X-Factor runner-up Rebecca Ferguson. A good gig, but not quite enough to dispel the memory of last year’s star turn: glam rock royalty and suaveness incarnate, Brian Ferry.
The festival continues till 14 December, presenting a wealth of industry workshops, seminars and Q&As, and quite a few films too – a series of gala screenings (set to include, among others, Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom, Indian romantic drama The Lunchbox and director David O. Russell’s hotly anticipated American Hustle); three competitions (the Muhr Emirati Awards, celebrating Emerati filmmakers, the Muhr Arab Awards and the Muhr Asia-Africa Awards); and number of out-of-competition categories: Arabian Nights, Cinema Of The World, Cinema Of Asia-Africa, Celebration Of Indian Cinema, Cinema For Children, Gulf Voices and Iraqi Legacy: Children Of The Future. There are also rather a lot of parties on the schedule which, as ever, Empire will dutifully attend in the name of comprehensive coverage.