x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Film festival diary

Celebrities enjoy the freebies and Mahfouz is recognised.

The Mexican director Arturo Ripstein raised a laugh from the audience at Tuesday's panel session on Naguib Mahfouz's contribution to cinema.

Ripstein directed the 1993 production Principio y Fin, which is based on the great Egyptian's novel Bidaya wa Nihaya (The Beginning and the End) and is one of eight films being shown at the festival's Mahfouz retrospective.

An earlier film based on the novel was made in Egypt in 1961 with a cast that included a young Omar Sharif.

"After the film was finished my father went to visit Mahfouz at his house in Cairo," said Ripstein. "Mahfouz was gracious enough to tell my father that our version of The Beginning and the End was better than the Egyptian version of long before. I was very flattered.

"So last year when I was at the Cairo Film Festival I went to see Sharif and I told him, 'We've made a second version of the film you were in many years back and Mahfouz said that our film was better than yours'.

"And he looked at me and he said, 'Of course, every film is better than that - our film is the worst film ever made in the world'."

The Naguib Mahfouz – Man of Cinema retrospective has been well attended by punters from all backgrounds. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Nobel laureate's birth, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival has been marking the occasion by screening eight films either written by Mahfouz or adapted from his novels. Some of the films already shown include The Beginning and the End, starring Sharif, and 1955's Fool's Alley, which marked the directing debut of Tawfiq Saleh. Our favourite, however, has to be Palace Walk, based on the first part of the Cairo trilogy. What a pity that the festival is not screening parts two and three, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street.

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The Egyptian actor Khaled Abol Naga has revealed the role he played in the genesis of the film Asma'a, which had its world premiere on Monday night at the Abu Dhabi Theatre.

The film, written and directed by Amr Salama, tells the story of a widowed mother who is HIV-positive.

"I work with Unicef as a goodwill ambassador and one day I invited Amr to hear the stories at a meeting with one of the HIV-positive support groups in Alexandria," Abol Naga said as he sported a red Aids-awareness ribbon on the red carpet. "He was so touched that the next day he wrote the story, so I kind of witnessed the birth of this movie."

Asma'a is a hard-hitting and uncompromising look at the issues surrounding HIV/Aids. Abol Naga, the star of Heliopolis and Microphone, added: "I'm very happy that these kinds of films are being made. It's time that artists, especially the young generation, made a very in-your-face statement."

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It seems that celebrities are not so jaded that they can't bother to get excited over a freebie, especially a freebie of the calibre of those offered at the festival's VIP lounge. The famed Egyptian actress Laila Eloui chose pink Havaianas and a few lipglosses from Make Up For Ever. She also chose the Straight to Heaven fragrance from Kilian, a T-shirt from Sugar Vintage and the temptation of Roccoco organic chocolates from Candelite. Hend Sabri, the Egyptian actress who plays the lead in the controversial Asma'a, which will screen again today at 3.30pm at Vox 2, also picked out a pair of Havaianas – a freebie that proved popular with all the celebrities visiting the lounge. She also picked out selections from Make Up For Ever, as well as Arganica hair and body balm and a Blackberry PlayBook. And Yousra, perhaps the most famous of all Egyptian actresses, borrowed a dress from CH by Carolina Herrera to wear on the red carpet, matching it perfectly with some Phioro jewellery by Clare Pardoe. She took some eyeshadows from Make Up For Ever in her preferred shade of purple. As soon as she's finished with the festival season this year, Yousra said she is planning to head to Monte Carlo to avail of her free week at the Fairmont there.

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It was ladies-only night for the international screening of Julie Benasra's God Save My Shoes on Tuesday night at Marina Mall's Vox Cinemas. The buzzed-about documentary from the US explores the female obsession with shoes and features a number of celebrities, including the singer Kelly Rowland. But it was not the obvious stars that were hard to pin down for an on-camera interview, Benasra told the audience in a Q&A session after the film. "Strangely, it was more difficult to talk to Christian Louboutin or Manolo Blahnik than to talk to Fergie or Dita Von Teese. These designers have become real stars."

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Lily Cole was described as "extremely shy" and "incredibly sweet" by staffers of the VIP suite. She asked the N Bar manicurists to accompany her and her friend down to the beach for an outdoor manicure/pedicure experience. Sand is, after all, thought to be an excellent exfoliant.