Dubai 2013: Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom
Posted on Friday December 13, 2013, 13:08 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
By an uncanny coincidence, both press activity and the gala, red carpet screening of Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom were due to take place at DIFF on Tuesday 10 December, the same day as Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg. Out of respect for the great man, all press events were cancelled pending re-scheduling and no photography or interviews were permitted on the red carpet. The screening proceeded in somber but suitably celebratory mood.
On Monday, Lifetime Achievement recipient Martin Sheen treated a capacity crowd at the Madinat Jumeirah Theater to anecdotes and insights from his long career during an In-Conversation that touched on his work with filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Terence Malick, Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese; his experience of fame, and his commitment to social justice that has seen him arrested almost forty times.
“I adore Martin Scorsese,” he said of his Departed director, “and would jump at the chance to work with him again. He had a love of actors that I have never seen a director express before.” Sheen also expressed his wish to one day work with the Coen Brothers. “I’m very intrigued with their work,” he said. Are you listening Joel and Ethan?
Among the movie highlights of the last few days, legendary Egyptian director Mohamed Kahn’s drama Factory Girl, which casts an unsparing eye over social attitudes to independent women in Egypt, received its work premier. The film is also in contention for the festival’s Muhr Arab award.
Outside the glare of the spotlight, Moroccan film They Are The Dogs (directed by Hicham Lasri) attracted much favourable attention for its poignant portrayal of an old man, imprisoned during the 1981 political upheavals in Morocco, searching for his place in an unfamiliar world.
On the documentary front, Amal Al-Agroobi’s The Brain That Sings, which follows the fortunes of two autistic Arab boys - 19-year-old Mohammed and six-year-old Khalifa – and the transforming effects of music therapy on their lives, also caused a stir. A sensitive and memorabloe film, it has much to say about the stigma born by special needs children in the UEA and what prospects exist for their future.
Monday night was marked by a party at The Act, located on the 42nd floor of the Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Dubai. If you’re unfamiliar with its London counterpart, The Act is a nightclub decked out like a Victorian bordello, hosted by a Joel-Grey-in-Cabaret-meets-Beetlejuice MC and featuring live acts that range from macabre vignettes to Cirque dul Solel-style acrobatics to old-fashioned Vegas camp– if you wondered where cheesy husband-and-wife crossbow acts went after The Paul Daniels Show was cancelled, look no further. Terrifically entertaining.