DUBAI / / Peter Weir's much anticipated movie The Way Back, starring Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, is to be released across the UAE and the Middle East on January 20.
This was the first project for the Australian director Weir, the creative eye behind movies such as The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society and Witness, after an absence from the screen of almost seven years.
The star-studded gala screening of The Way Back was on Wednesday night at the 7th Dubai International Film Festival. During a press conference yesterday, which Farrell missed - reportedly due to a high temperature - Weir said it was hard to predict how the audience would perceive the movie.
"From what I see after the various screenings, people are genuinely moved," he said. "What I personally take from making this movie is the powerful stillness of some scenes and the absolutely beautiful performances by the cast."
The cast included the British actor Jim Sturgess, who said just to be present with an audience and see their immediate reaction was phenomenal.
"I remember a scene where a snake crawls over one of the characters and the audience let out a huge gasp, so being present can be hugely dramatic," said Sturgess.
"What Peter did was essentially strip everything down so you don't see scenes you are so typically used to, and he succeeds in those types of moments that then become so important to the audience."
The movie explores the true life experiences of soldiers who escaped from a Siberian gulag during the Second World War, trekking 6,500km to India.
The movie was shot in 65 days in Bulgaria, the Sahara Desert in Morocco and Darjeeling, India, during which time the cast and crew fought intense cold and blistering heat.
"This is a movie about the human spirit and will to survive. Peter found a way to tell a powerful love story beneath all this survival. And yes we were really as cold and hot as you see us," said Sturgess.
Shooting on a tight schedule was a challenge, said Weir, because they had to stick to arrangements made in every location. "This movie could not have been my first," he joked, "simply because I was able to use all my knowledge and experience."
The movie, which runs just a little over two hours, had to be edited down from almost three- and-a-half hours.
"Editing was hard because you have to really get the rhythm of the movie and the editing room is where you get to know the personality of the project. That is how I choose when to slow down and when to accelerate so that it does not become repetitive," said Weir.
When asked what would happen to good shots that did not quite make the cut, Weir joked that he would sell them at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
On a more serious note, the six-time Oscar nominee said what happened next with the movie and whether or not it would win awards was "up to fate".