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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Getting the most from Dubai Film International Festival

With so much packed into eight days, it can be hard to know where to start, so here is our simple guide to getting the most out of the festival, highlighting the key attractions.
People watching a movie at the beach opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
People watching a movie at the beach opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

The 12th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival gets under way tonight with a gala screening that marks the regional premiere of Lenny Abrahamson’s Oscar-tipped drama, Room.

Based on Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel of the same name, it stars Brie Larson as a mother who is held prisoner for five years in a small room with her young son Jack (played by Jacob Tremblay, who is due to walk the red carpet).

The invite-only gala raises the curtain on one of the cultural and social highlights of the UAE calendar. Film fans can look forward to eight days of celebrity appearances, glitzy parties, filmmaking panels, industry discussions and, of course, a treasure trove of world cinema.

With so much packed into eight days, it can be hard to know where to start, so here is our simple guide to getting the most out of the festival, highlighting the key attractions.

The movies

The films are, of course, the main attraction – but with 134 films, including 54 world premières, packed into just eight days, where do you begin?

There’s no way you’ll be able to see them all, but with a bit of careful planning you can fit in as many of your top picks as possible.

The screenings take place at three venues (technically it is four, but the Madinat Arena and Madinat Theatre are close enough to each other to count as a single location). The red-carpet gala screenings and premières (as well as the Dubai Film Market and the forum) take place in the two Madinat venues.

Vox Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates will hosts a plethora of screenings each day. Each night, outdoor venue The Beach, JBR will hosts a free public screening. None of the venues are too far away from each other, but allow yourself plenty of time to get from one to the other between screenings. Dubai’s traffic can be notoriously frustrating, and it might be wise to stick with one venue each day and watch several films at once. Take a little time to study the festival programme in advance, and you should be able to pack as many films in as possible with a minimum of travelling.

Tickets and online store

The most popular films can sell out fast, so it’s worth buying tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. Tickets for standard screenings are available from Dh35 for a single ticket, or in a variety of bundles and package deals. Tickets for red carpet gala screenings cost Dh100 each.

Tickets are available from the festival box offices in Madinat Arena, Madinat Theatre and Vox MoE, or online at www.filmfest.ae

While you’re online shopping for tickets, check out the Diff store as well. The festival has teamed up with Jordanian designer Jobedu to offer a selection of quirky, film-related T-shirts, hoodies and posters from Dh36.5.

Arabian Nights

Immerse yourself in local and regional culture with the festival’s Arabian Nights section of films showcasing the best movies from across the Arab world.

Highlights of this year’s programme include Hany Abu Assad’s biggest movie so far, The Idol, which tells the inspirational story of how Palestinian Mohammad Assaf beat the odds to win the Arab Idol talent competition.

British documentary maker Sean McCallister began filming Syrian Love Story in 2009, before the start of the civil war. His film follows the lives of Amer and Raghda from Syria, to the Yarmouk refugee camp, then France and Turkey. The couple met and fell in love 15 years ago when they were in adjoining prison cells in their home country.

The Beach

The popular outdoor cinema at JBR Beach returns this year, offering free screenings every night during the festival. On Wednesday night, audiences can watch live on the big screen highlights from the red carpet as the stars and celebrities arrive for the opening night gala screening. Then at 8pm, they can watch the world premiere of Iraqi-born director Halkwat Mustafa’s El Clasico.

The film tells the story of two brothers who leave their home in Iraq to undertake a perilous journey in the hope of meeting their idol, Real Madrid footballer Christiano Ronaldo.

Other highlight of The Beach’s programme include Friday’s screening of Hany Abu Assad’s The Idol, accompanied by a live performance from the film’s inspiration, Mohammad Assaf.

And don’t miss a special 40th anniversary screening of Steven Spielberg’s classic Jaws, which will be introduced by the movie’s star, Richard Dreyfuss.

The awards

Indulge in the opportunity to spot the stars of the future at Diff’s Muhr Awards, which are presented to the most promising Emirati, Gulf and Arab features and shorts.

There is also the annual IWC Schaffhausen Award, which gives the Gulf director with the best script US$100,000 to help develop it for the screen.

The Ministry of Interior’s Cinema Award, which was established to identify and encourage talented scriptwriting that shines the spotlight on societal issues, also carries a $100,000 cash prize, and will presented in the Madinat Theatre on closing night, along with the Muhr Awards.

Judges on the panels that willchoose the winners include French film legend Catherine Deneuve, Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad and Dancer in the Dark producer Fridrik Thor Fridriksson.

cnewbould@thenational.ae