The fifth Gulf Film Festival, the home of bold, contemporary and experimental cinema from the Arabian peninsula, will open in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in less than a fortnight with the screening of Tora Bora, a Kuwaiti feature film that revolves around a brainwashed young man’s decision to join extremist forces in Afghanistan, and his parents’ agonized search for him.
The fiction drama, from Kuwaiti filmmaker Walid Al Awadi, will launch the festival on April 10 at Grand Cinemas Dubai Festival City, and also kickstart its Abu Dhabi screenings on April 12. The Festival continues until April 16 in Dubai, and until April 14 at the Abu Dhabi Theatre in the capital’s corniche district.
Tora Bora, which is competing in the Festival’s Gulf feature competition, is one of six Kuwaiti films shortlisted for the 5th Gulf Film Festival. The film, which debuted at the Cannes Film Market and screened to critical acclaim in Kuwait, will make its international premiere at the Festival.
An additional seven films from Oman will also be screened, including a co-production of Oman and Kuwait. Eight of the 13 films will make their world premiere at the festival, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).
The Kuwait lineup also includes the world premiere of Al Salhiyah, directed by Sadeq Behbehani. Competing in the Official Gulf Shorts, the film is a throwback to the times when love and loyalty truly mattered. Set in the Al Salehya neighbourhood in Kuwait City, the film follows the life of an aging businessman (played by renowned actor Mohammed Jaber) and the office that is a repository of many of his memories.
The multiple-award winning short Wonderland: A True Story by Kuwait’s Dana Al Mojil will also compete in the Festival’s shorts competition. An adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’ that is set in Kuwait, the adventure fantasy highlights the similarities between the social and political situation in modern Kuwait and Wonderland.
Meqdad Al Kout, who won the Special Jury Prize at GFF 2009 for his film Banana, has joined hands with Mousaed Khaled, an award-winning Kuwaiti actor, to co-direct Someone, a short fiction which also makes its world premiere in the Official Gulf Shorts competition. It charts one day in the life of a man, who goes through his daily routine with one of his friends.
Abdulaziz AlBallam’s The Doctor Asked Me is making its GCC premiere in the Festival’s Lights segment, a showcase of trendsetting films from the region. Narrated from the perspective of a man who is sharing his story with a doctor, the film explores how the storytelling process can lead to personal catharsis.
The last Kuwaiti film in the Festival’s Gulf shorts competition, I Wish We Were Dancers by Mohammed Walid Ayyad, is a silent film and a celebration of grace, portraying the life of a girl with multiple sclerosis who is confined to a wheelchair but nonetheless has vivid dreams of becoming a ballerina.
Panda, directed by Jassim Al Nofaly and an Oman-Kuwait co-production, makes its world premiere at GFF, as part of its Gulf shorts competition. Ziad, the protagonist, is getting married in a few hours and has to bid farewell to the most important thing in his life: the panda that has been his lifelong companion.
Omani director Maitham Al Musawi, who returns to GFF after last year’s screening of adventure drama Raneen, presents the world premiere of Popcorn, a fantasy that will compete in the Official Gulf Shorts segment. The film charts the mysterious journey of a man through different stages in his life, starting off with the traditional birthday celebration of an Omani family’s first child.
Four student films from Oman – including three world premieres – are included in GFF 2012’s Gulf student competition. Issa Salim Hamed Al-Subhi’s Sing to Me Toy is a film that delves into the internal struggle that a child has to endure due to various family problems. His parents believe that happiness lies in a doll that keeps smiling in the hands of an orphaned girl, but in the hands of their son, the results are different.
Also centred on a child’s life is Qatt (Alfalfa), directed by Al Muntaser Billah Al Amri and Mohammed Al Subhi, about a young boy who finds in others what he lacks. The consequences of this revelation, however, are not easy for him to endure.
Shadow of Freedom, by Marwan Al Busafi and Taha Al Busafi, explores a complex issue by panning their camera on scenes from the Arab street, in an attempt to discover contemporary realities from scenes dating back to 2003. They also look at the societal angst that sparked protests in parts of the Arab world.
Carefully Selected Oranges by Abdullah Khamis, making its UAE premiere, will also compete in the Festival’s Gulf shorts competition. The film narrates the story of a middle-aged crippled father who buys carefully selected oranges for his children. As he waits to cross the road, he drifts into a cloud of dreams, followed by an unexpected twist to the tale.
Also screening from Oman is Pillar, directed by Mohammed Al Harthy and Shabib Al-Habsi, which focuses on the life of a castle guard who hears voices from the top of the monument after visiting hours. In his quest to discover the source of the sound, he is haunted by personal memories.
In addition to the rich showcase of films from across the Arabian peninsula, GFF 2012 also has a diverse programme on children’s films as well as trend-setting international shorts and compelling feature films presented in the Intersections and Lights segments.
GFF 2012 will be held at the InterContinental Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Grand Festival Cinemas at Dubai Festival City; and from April 12 to 14 at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. The Investment Corporation of Dubai is the presenting sponsor of the Gulf Film Festival; Emirates airline is its official carrier. GFF is supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and held in association with Dubai Studio City.