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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Diff 2017: remembering the best feel-good hits

Cinema, when it's done right, makes us feel fantastic - here are some of the festival's greatest feel good hits

Charlie Brown and his best pal Snoopy enjoy a winter's day in The Peanuts Movie. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide
Charlie Brown and his best pal Snoopy enjoy a winter's day in The Peanuts Movie. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide

During the opening day of the 2017 Dubai International Film Festival, Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Minister of Culture and Knowledge, said something most of us can relate to: “To cinema we resort to escape from a tough day or to celebrate a successful, productive one.” And isn’t that the truth? Few pastimes offer as much escapism, or joy, as watching a quality film in a quality cinema. It’s something that, when it’s right, makes us feel remarkably good.

And Diff is all about the feel-good factor – a celebration of local and international filmmaking that brings high profile celebrities and artists from far and wide, where films are screened for the first time and deals are done for distribution and future production. It’s perhaps timely, then, to take a look back at previous editions of the festival to remember five of the feel-good screening highlights; films that make you cry for all the right reasons.

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

Nominated for a Golden Globe at the 2016 awards, The Peanuts Movie was a treat for kids and anyone who grew up knowing and loving Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of Charles Schulz’s iconic cartoon characters – which means pretty much all of us and might explain why it took Dh903 million at the worldwide box office. In the 90-minute adventure, the entire Peanuts gang is back on screen for the first time in 35 years, with Charlie Brown falling in love with a girl who’s moved into his street. She’s not impressed but, when he mistakenly scores a perfect school test result, his newfound popularity piques her interest. Should he ’fess up to the error and risk going back to being a ‘nobody’? Will the girl see past this and fall in love with him? You get the picture.

Feel good rating: 5/5 – a film that brings a smile to the faces of any generation

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

“Based on the true story of a limitless mind,” read the tagline, and there’s nothing like an inspirational film based on actual events to get your soul soaring. In this case, we witness the tale of Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), a young Indian boy with a special gift for mathematics, who was invited to study at Britain’s Cambridge University, mentored by an eccentric and apparently emotionless academic, G. H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons). Tension is in the air as World War I is looming and racism in early 20th century Britain is rife, not least in the form of Hardy, against whom Ramanujan must struggle to prove his theories – which he did, going on to become one of India’s most influential modern scholars.

Feel good rating: 4.5/5 – a good old fashioned yarn that grabs the heartstrings and doesn’t let go

The Muppets (2011)

Who doesn’t love The Muppets? Anyone? Anyone? Exactly. And 2011’s DIFF saw the eponymous film headline a special line-up of family-friendly showings, delighting kids of all ages. The storyline centres around three Muppet fans who head to the Muppet Theatre in Hollywood, only to discover that it’s in a state of disrepair. The trio learns that oil magnate, Tex Richman, is trying to buy the establishment to drill for the oil he believes lies far beneath it – something that would destroy a vital piece of Muppet heritage. The three fans (Gary, Mary and Walter) join forces to regroup the famous furries so they can put on one last show and, maybe, give the theatre a future.

Feel good rating: 5/5 – a delightful trip down memory lane for millions of kids, young and old

The Idol (2015)

There’s no shortage of ‘rags-to-riches’ true stories in cinema but Hany Abu-Assad’s uplifting film, The Idol, packed a particularly unique punch at 2015’s festival. The tale of Palestinian, Mohammad Assaf, who won the Arab Idol competition in 2013, was bound to be perfect for the big screen but what really gives a lump in your throat is the portrayal of his early life, set against the brutality of life in Gaza and his struggles due to his sister’s illness. A compassionate piece of filmmaking, it’s nothing if not inspirational and, lest we forget, there’s some great music in there, too.

Feel good rating: 4/5 – some scenes are hard to watch but the story unfolds in the best possible way

Breaking the Bank (2014)

The banking industry can be baffling for most of us at times and Sir Charles Bunbury (Kelsey Grammar) is no exception, apart from the fact that he’s in charge of an actual private bank – the 200-year old and terribly British Tuftons. Japanese and American investment banking institutions are circling Tuftons like sharks and Sir Charles ends up losing everything, including his wife. To win her back, he needs to somehow get the family’s bank back – not easy for the bumbling aristocrat who hasn’t got anything that even resembles a plan. Farcical and full of great one-liners, it’s a riches-to-rags and back to riches yarn that cannot help but raise a smile.

Feel good rating: 4/5 – reminiscent of Trading Places but suitable for all the family

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