x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Festival diary: Marjane Satrapi unwinds by drumming

The Chicken with Plums director also takes her star shopping in Marina Mall.

The Chicken with Plums director Marjane Satrapi, left, and the actress Maria de Medeiros, who stars in the film.
The Chicken with Plums director Marjane Satrapi, left, and the actress Maria de Medeiros, who stars in the film.

According to our sources hidden deep within the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, one director had an interesting way of spending time between interviews. Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, Chicken with Plums), when not declining to talk to The National about the recent demonstrations in Tunis that flared up after a TV screening of Persepolis, can be found drumming, instead. She saw a drum kit in one of the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's rooms, perched herself on the seat and began bashing away with the sticks. Later on that afternoon, accompanied by the Chicken with Plums actress Maria de Medeiros, the two were spotted doing a bit of shopping at Marina Mall. Accompanied by a security guard, the duo toured the mall and walked among unsuspecting shoppers near stores in the Paris Gallery. De Medeiros even had an assistant carrying two of her shopping bags. "You are officially my shopping boy," the Portuguese actress joked. Earlier in the day, de Medeiros and Satrapi attended the second and final screening of Chicken with Plums at Marina Mall's Vox Cinemas.

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Fans of fighting had reason to be happy at the festival, with not one but two films devoted to the world of mixed martial arts (MMA): Warrior and the documentary Fightville. Tim Credeur, the Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter and academy owner who stars in the latter, was in town for the film's screenings. He said that while there had been documentaries about MMA before, they hadn't all shown it in its best light. "On some levels, they've sensationalised things and some people have negatively impacted the sport by selling the gore and savagery of MMA. That's not really the sport. This film is really just a raw cut version of what it's like to begin a martial arts career if you're from Nowheresville, USA."

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Topher Grace, the former That '70s Show actor, seemed slightly overwhelmed walking the red carpet. The actor, however, said he "absolutely loves being in the UAE" and extended his stay an extra week. "The food here is delicious. I love the architecture, too," he said.

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Michael Brandt, first-time director of the spy movie The Double, revealed that Wanted 2, the sequel to the action thriller starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie, is not far off. Walking the red carpet with Derek Haas, who co-wrote the Wanted screenplay with Brandt, the duo divulged that they were now planning to write Wanted 2, and said that even after spending so much time together working on The Double and a number of other screenplays, they continued to have a great relationship that has lasted longer than many marriages. "We've been working together for 15 years," said Haas, adding: "We intend to continue working exactly like this."

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For those who do not understand Dark Horse, which screens at Abu Dhabi Theatre today at 3.15pm, perhaps the eccentric indie director Todd Solondz can shed some light. "It's comedy," he told the audience at a screening at Marina Mall's Vox Cinemas on Sunday night. "A very sorrowful, sad comedy." The film features the relatively unknown Jordan Gelber playing an action-figure-collecting, maladjusted man-child. Gelber holds his own amid a stellar cast that includes Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow as his father and mother; Selma Blair as his reluctant fiancée and Justin Bartha as his irritating, overachiever brother. Solondz, whose previous films have included the 1998 paedophilia-themed comedy Happiness, said he was "lucky" to be able to continue making his dark, controversial films in the current blockbuster-loving Hollywood environment. "Each movie makes less and less than the previous ones," he said. "So many people have lost so much money."

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Sometimes you just have to take a risk to get what you want. This is precisely what a friend of the Emirati director Ali Mustafa did when he crashed into the VIP lounge. Initially, he sat on the couch beside the lifts at the Fairmont Hotel while Mustafa did his shopping. But egged on by Mustafa, he finally mustered the courage and walked in without being stopped. He didn't blow his cover though by taking anything - except for a free drink.

* Alex Ritman, Saeed Saeed, Ann Marie McQueen and Marie-Louise Olson