ABU DHABI // Hollywood heavyweights including Julianne Moore will rub shoulders not only with Arabic stars such as Yusra at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival - come Thursday, the stars also will spend quality time with festival goers.
A unique initiative will give UAE residents the chance to hear from their favourite celebrities during a series of exclusive conversations. According to Peter Scarlett, the festival's executive director, international filmmakers and stars are interested in getting to know the people and places they visit.
The conversation line-up will include Hollywood celebrities such as Moore, Una Thurman and Adrien Brody, who will share details of personal experiences with small audiences. Arabic stars such as the Egyptian singer and actress Yusra and the Egyptian actor Yehia El Fakharany also will talk to the public. Other famous faces from the region will include the heartthrob actor, TV host and UN goodwill ambassador Khaled Abol Naga, and the singer and actor Lebleba, who starred alongside Omar Sharif in the 2008 blockbuster Hassan and Morcos.
"We see the festival as a means for our guests to discover Abu Dhabi, and for our public to have experiences that open up the world in ways they might not have expected. It's with great pleasure that we can offer this exciting series of encounters, featuring some of our highest profile guests," said Mr Scarlett. The sessions will be held at Abu Dhabi Theatre and the Festival Tent at Emirates Palace.
Eissa Saif Rashed al Mazrouei, the festival's project director, said more filmmakers are attending this year's festival, with at least 270 confirmed global talents. "With even more filmmakers attending, we are sure our audiences are in for some truly engaging opportunities to learn more about the films they see, straight from the people who made them," said Mr al Mazrouei. "These sorts of personal encounters, and the important exchange of ideas they give rise to, are an essential part of our efforts to foster film culture in this region."
The Abu Dhabi Film Commission has also organised a three-day Circle Conference, which starts today and includes panel discussions on topics ranging from women in film to pitching projects. "This year, we are expecting more than double the number of attendees for the Circle Conference and we have a great line-up of global speakers, including senior industry leaders, coming to the capital," said David Shepheard, the commission director.
Industry professionals who are participating include Sanford Panitch, the president of Fox International Productions; Stephen McDonough, the head of co-production funding at BBC Worldwide (UK); and the producer and director Malek Akkad (the horror movie franchise Halloween).