x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Second Middle East Film & Comic Con: a sneak peek

Start practicing your Klingon and do not say a word about Jar Jar Binks. MEFCC, Episode II, is heading to Dubai this weekend.

Dalia Saleeby as Megurine Luka and Abigail Riley as Kagamine Len at last year's first Middle East Film & Comic Con in Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National
Dalia Saleeby as Megurine Luka and Abigail Riley as Kagamine Len at last year's first Middle East Film & Comic Con in Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National

Dubai - with its status as something of a mixed bag of cultural sweets - can often be a place where a wild variety of fashion is on display. In one glance, you can spot someone wearing traditional Arabian dress, someone in a three-piece suit and, if you're anywhere near the sea (or, sadly, sometimes not), someone in a Speedo.

And for this weekend, at least, it's also a place where you might also want to add "Darth Vadar outfit" or "costume from popular science fiction video game" to the eclectic catwalk line-up.

That's right, the Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC) is back for another weekend of fanboy and fangirl madness.

Bigger and better

Following last year's impressive debut event, which drew about 15,000 attendees - many in costume - to the Dubai International Marine Club at Mina Seyahi, organisers have upped the ante for the second outing, expanding its size by more than a third.

This time around, there will be a much bigger focus on the stage area, with more activities and performances, plus a new area dedicated to children, a gaming zone several times bigger than before and plenty more international visitors.

"There's so much happening," says Arafaat Ali Khan, the director of ExtraCake, the company organising the event. "Exhibitors, international publishers and artists have really seen the reaction of the fans and the interest there is in this region."

Celebrity guests

As anyone who has been to an event in Dubai will testify, nothing is complete without a celebrity guest appearance. And MEFCC is no exception. Perhaps at the top of the pile is Master Samwise Gamgee himself, Sean Astin (who might be more recognisable to older attendees as Mikey from The Goonies).

Then there's Warwick Davis, star of the 1980s fantasy epic Willow, Harry Potter and - more recently - Ricky Gervais's Life's Too Short, plus Manu Bennett, from the Spartacus television series as well as The Hobbit (he was the Orc chieftain Azog).

On the illustrative side of things, the creator of The Crow, James O'Barr, will be in town. Oh, and remember Max Landis from last year? Well, he's back as MC. "We couldn't keep him away," laughs Khan. "Actually, he's become a good friend of ours. He's brilliant."

Dedicated content

"The main Comic Cons in San Diego and New York often have a limited run of a comic with a particular cover or content created just for the event, and we've got that," says Khan. The comic in question is a Transformers story with a cover featuring Bumblebee fighting the Decepticon Thundercracker on top of the Burj Al Arab.

"It's awesome. We're really thrilled," Khan says.

O'Barr has also created an exclusive drawing of The Crow with the Dubai skyline in the background. "Again, you can only get it at MEFCC."

Workshops

While it may sound like it's all Hobbitses and pretend lightsabre fights, there's some learning to be done at MEFCC, too. This year, the event has teamed up with Abu Dhabi media zone twofour54's Creative Campus to offer a range of workshops for budding creatives, including 3-D games development, voice acting and Manga drawing. Get in there quick, though, because places are limited.

Success stories

MEFCC may only be a year old but it has already helped provide a platform for regional talent looking to get into the industry. "There was an artist over here last year who met with reps from an art studio and is now doing commissioned work from them in the States," says Khan.

The National's own Arts&Life reporter Maey El Shoush is also launching her first graphic novel, Drawn, at this year's event, having teamed up with the publisher Jabal Entertainment in 2012. "I was just so happy for her," Khan says. "It's so great to see that happening right in front of you and encourages and motivates us even more."

Dedication

However much you're looking forward to MEFCC this weekend, you'll be hard pushed to top the dedication shown by a group of Kuwaitis who last year chartered a plane to come over.

MEFCC is Friday and Saturday. Visit www.mefcc.com for more information. Check out Arts&Life on Thursday for a special look at some surprising elements of Comic Con

aritman@thenational.ae

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