DUBAI // Celebrities worked the red carpet and the flashes of cameras provided the glamour and the buzz that signalled the official opening of the fourth Gulf Film Festival (GFF) last night at Dubai Festival City.
Among the stars in attendance were Emirati director Abdullah Al Kaabi, whose 2010 short film The Philosopher has won numerous awards, including at the Hollywood Film Festival, while he garnered a prestigious invite to the Tribeca Film Festival that takes place in New York next week.
Also gracing the red carpet was Syrian actress Niveen Madi, wearing a full-length leopard skin gown with crystal accessories and hair swept to one side. "The festival keeps growing each year," she said.
French actress Samira Mesbahi, who stars in the movie Skype, followed shortly after, donning a film reel hat. The actress, who is based in Dubai and France, wore a bow-tie necklace to match her black outfit.
The world's first screening of the Iraqi drama Child of Iraq, by Ala'a Mohsen, opened the film festival.
After the stars made their way through the razzmatazz of the red carpet, an invitation-only ceremony followed.
"I'm happy to be here," said Mohsen, in front of a packed audience that included Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. "I'd like to thank the festival for this opportunity to show two distinct societies, having lived in Iraq and Denmark."
GFF 2011, held at the InterContinental Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Grand Cinemas at Dubai Festival City, includes a competition for Gulf films, a student competition and a children's segment.
During the opening ceremony, Emirati actress Mariam Sultan, Saudi filmmaker Mohammad F Gazzaz, and the Kuwaiti filmmaker Mohammad al Sanousi, were honoured for their contribution to Arab cinema.
"The Gulf Film Festival is unique in the world as the only platform where filmmakers from the Gulf nations, Iraq and Yemen can share what's on their minds and hearts with the world in an open setting, said Festival chairman, Abdulhamid Juma. "There has never been a more important time for this."
Another Iraqi director, Luay Fadhil, who walked the red carpet, is in the Shorts Competition, with his movie Frame. "I won a prize last year and it is my dream to go back to Baghdad and make a feature film," he said.
Kuwaiti director Abdullah Boushari, who also has a studio in Miami, is enjoying the recognition his home country is receiving.
"It's exciting because films from the Gulf are getting better and there's more variety from Kuwait," he said. "I feel like I am coming back home when I attend GFF."