DUBAI // A glittering red-carpet event marked the official opening of the seventh Dubai International Film Festival at Madinat Jumeirah last night.
The eight-day festival opened with The King's Speech, starring the British actor Colin Firth.
Firth was the first actor to arrive last night. Earlier, he had made a grand entrance to the Madinat Jumeirah on a traditional abra. When he stepped on to the red carpet in the evening, he spent nearly 20 minutes posing for pictures and signing autographs for fans who had gathered to greet him.
Firth described the festival as a place were cinematic cultures could come to interact.
"I've dreamt of coming here for a long time," he said. "I'm not sure why it has taken so long, I'm just dazzled and amazed at this place."
Other Hollywood stars who attended the gala screening last night included the Prison Break and The Walking Dead star Sarah Wayne Callies in a vintage gold sequined dress, and Carey Mulligan, who wore a simple grey and pink number. "I'm here to support my friend Colin," she said.
The Egyptian actor Mustafa Fahmy and the Arabic director Mohamed Diab were also at the launch. Diab enthused about the "wave of independent movies sweeping across the Middle East".
His new film, 678, will be screened today.
The line-up this year includes 157 movies from 57 countries from South America to South Korea.
Sean Penn and Sabah will be honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Billed as the most accessible Diff ever, the festival promises a high level of public interaction: The public can take part in "conversations" with the stars throughout the festival at Madinat, tickets can be purchased for gala screenings, and the public even has access to the red carpet in designated fan zones.