The Dubai International Film Festival threw its doors open for the 14th time last night with a red carpet gala screening of Scott Cooper’s Oscar-tipped Western drama Hostiles.
There were plenty of familiar faces on the red carpet – the opening film itself was represented on the night by native American actress Q'orianka Kilcher, along with members of the movie’s production team, while local talent included The Worthy director Ali F Mostafa and Amal Al Agroobi, who is currently raising funds for her next feature Doris Domestic.
Regionally, talent attending on the night included the Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir, whose latest film Wajib will screen later in the programme; legendary Syrian actress, UN goodwill ambassador and one-time highest paid actress in the Arab World Muna Wassef and Lebanese singer Walid Toufic.
There was further international talent in evidence too. DIFF perennial Olga Kurylenko was back on the carpet, this year supporting Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Death of Stalin, which screens on Friday night and in which she plays pianist Maria Yudina.
Cate Blanchett was another returnee, in town once again to chair the judging panel of the IWC Award. By far the biggest cheer from the crowds on the night, however, came for Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Men star Patrick Stewart (though an honourable clapometer mention goes to the recently crowned Miss Lebanon Perla El Helou, who seemed to have brought a sizeable fan club of her own too).
Stewart was attending to pick up a lifetime achievement award on opening night, and he revealed on the red carpet that he’ll be fitting the capital into his whistle-stop trip to the UAE too: “My wife and I are both great lovers of art and we love to visit galleries,” he told The National.
“We’d heard about this huge, incredible new gallery, The Louvre, opening in Abu Dhabi, so I was delighted when I learned we would have enough time to visit Abu Dhabi and take a look tomorrow.”
Speaking ahead of the opening film, festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma commented: “We are honoured to be able to recognize the work of remarkably talented individuals who have shaped the industry today. Wahid Hamed, Sir Patrick Stewart, Irrfan Khan [Hamed and Khan were also receiving achievement awards] and Cate Blanchett are icons of the silver screen and we hope that their presence at this year’s festival will help inspire a new generation of filmmaking talent.”
Read more from Diff 2017:
Director Ruben Ostlund discusses Cannes-lauded movie The Square
Review: Taboos broken in brave, harrowing Tunisian drama Beauty and the Dogs
5 most anticipated films at this year's festival
A beginner's guide to this year's festival