Given that it’s the oldest festival in the Gulf and easily considered one of the wider region’s most established film festivals, it’s strange to think that the Dubai International Film Festival isn’t yet a decade old. This year’s event – which will be held from December 9 – 16 marks the ninth edition of a now wide-reaching festival that, like much the city around it, is barely recognisable from its first days in 2004.
Big Name Action
Ok, so last year was pretty much dominated by the world premier of Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which most organisers have admitted was a bit like having two festivals running at the same time.
It might be a while before DIFF tops this, but there are some pretty big titles landing that have already been gathering international acclaim.
The festival will open with Ang Lee’s Oscar-tipped 3D adaptation of Life of Pi. Watch this space to hear if a giant Bengal tiger will be making the red carpet walk.
Then there’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s cultish The Master, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Hyde Park On The Hudson, the British drama set just after the famed The King’s Speech (and no doubt looking to emulate its success), and the much-talked-about Hitchcock, in which a prosthetic-clad Anthony Hopkins portrays the scare-master during the making of his famed Psycho.
Those who have read Cloud Atlas should be keen to see how on earth the directors (Lana and Andy Wachowski, plus Tom Tykwer) turn its time-jumping plotline into a film.
Oh, and while it might not be blockbuster, we can’t leave out Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet, about a group of retired opera singers – including Billy Connelly – who put on a concert.
The festival’s Arabian Nights and Arab Feature sections continue to grow, with old hands and fresh faces adding to an impressive line-up. After 12 years away from cinema screens, Syrian director Basil Khatib returns with the world premiere of Mariam, chronicling 100 years of Syrian history. From newcomer Sally El Hosaini comes her acclaimed debut My Brother The Devil, about two boys from an Arab family living in a deprived part of London.
If it’s a first you’re after, try Wadjda, from the wonderful Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour (we know she’s wonderful, because we just met her in Doha), which is considered the first feature fully shot in the Kingdom. Palestinian actor Ali Suliman, who won Best Actor at last year’s festival for The Last Friday, returns with a starring role in The Attack, about a prominent Arab surgeon in Tel Aviv whose comfortable life is thrown upside down following revelations about his wife. FYI, Suliman appeared in Kanye West’s last music video, so he’s far cooler than most of us.
Cinematic Centenary Celebrations
Indian cinema turned 100 this year (Happy Birthday Indian Cinema!) and DIFF will be celebrating this milestone with a special programme that includes Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, about the noted human rights lawyer who was shot dead in 2010, Malayalam thriller Shutter from actor-turned-director Joy Mathew and the curious Sound (Shobdo), about a Tollywood sound technician whose obsession with his work leads him to lose grip of words and dialogue.
Finally, there’s Quartet 1, four short films based on the poems of the iconic Rabindranath Tagore on the 150th anniversary of his birth (Happy Birthday Rabindranath!)
For the kids
DIFF has this year taken its younger audience into consideration with fluffy werewolves, musical bears and forest elves jostling for attention.
Banishing memories of 2010’s mostly terrifying (and awful) The Nutcracker 3D, the Christmassy tale this year is the Norwegian adventure Journey To The Christmas Star, which replaces frightening anthropomorphic rats with courageous girls, lost princesses and captivating snow-clad scenery.
Then there’s Alfie, The Little Werewolf, about a boy who develops a bit of a hair and claw problem, and the uplifting Hindi drama Gattu, which follows the story of an illiterate street orphan who battles to fulfill his one passion: kite flying.
For the arthouse in all of us
Austrian director Michael Haneke isn’t renowned for making slapstick comedy, so it’ll surprise few to hear his Palm d’Or-winning Amour (Love), tackles the subject from a somewhat bleak perspective (old people, strokes, etc). But it is tipped for glory in the Oscar’s foreign language race.
Also try Tabu, which delighted at the Berlinale earlier in the year, Michael Gomes’ almost uncategorisable yet poetic, time-and-location jumping drama that will leave most moved, if a bit confused.
Best name award goes to…
This year’s prize surely has to go to the documentary Death Metal Angola, which comes with the arguably best tagline too – ‘The Hardest Hardcore is Angolan Hardcore’. Quite.
There are plenty of other films that we haven’t had space to mention. For more information on all the films showing at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival go to www.dubaifilmfest.com. We’ll be covering more of the line-up as the event draws nearer.
- Cate Blanchett
- Cuba Gooding Jr
- Kevin Spacey
- Frieda Pinto
- Colin Firth
- Brillante Mendoza
- Takashi Miike
- Amr Waked
- Livia Firth
- Rooney Mara
- Kristen Davis
- Bryan Ferry
The online box office is open from tomorrow. This year the festival is offering several packages for cinema goers, with six tiers giving insider access. For more info, visit www.dubaifilmfest.com or call 363-3456