He made everyone wait but when he finally appeared, more than four hours after the first Arab celebrities had walked the red carpet on the opening night gala of the fourth Doha Tribeca Film Festival, it’s safe to say screen legend Robert De Niro  charmed the socks off everyone’s fabulously shined shoes.
“I love coming here, it’s important for me to come here,” he said smiling as he stopped for “one question each” for the (patiently) waiting journalists at the Souq Waqif in Doha’s cultural capital.
Tribeca is De Niro . A festival he helped found in 2002 after September 9/11 to help spur creativity. And it was only apt that 69-year-old would be the crowning glory of the opening night of the Doha version of his film festival, founded in association with the Doha Film Institute (DFI) four years ago.
He tried to downplay his acclaimed role in The Silver Linings Playbook, which is already receiving Oscar buzz and opens this Thursday in the UAE.
“Ahh... I just play a small role in [the film],” he joked, before he was whisked away.
Another star of the night was Indian director Mira Nair, whose film The Reluctant Fundamentalist, co-produced by DFI, opened the festival. Looking resplendent in a green salwar kameez by designer Rohit Bal, Nair said bringing her film to the Qatari capital was like a homecoming.
“It never gets old,” she said to tabloid! about doing red carpets. “It’s always a new experience just like all the films.”
Nair also exclusively told tabloid! her award-winning 2001 film Monsoon Wedding is soon to be made into a Broadway musical. “Yes, you’re the first to hear it,” she said. “It’s exciting. It will be a mixture of Hindi and English. But that’s all I can say now.”
Nair was accompanied by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid on whose similarly titled bestseller her film is based.
Also on the red carpet, Egyptian stars Yusra, Khalid Abol Naga and Khalid Al Nawaby rubbed shoulders with the UAE’s own filmmakers Ali F. Mostafa, in Ralph Lauren, and Abdullah Al Ka’abi, in Dunhill, along with Khaleeji actors and TV stars.
Dubai International Film Festival’s artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said he was there to support Gulf filmmakers.
“We want to show that we can work together for the growth of the industry in the Gulf,” he said, not ruling out the possibility of an association with DFI in the future.
Jury member and Oscar-nominated Indian director Ashutosh Gowarikar said he was looking forward to watching films by Arab filmmakers.
Looking smart in an Armani suit, Gowarikar spoke about his upcoming historical film Mohenjodaro.
“I like history. I like going back in time and relating it to our lives today,” said the director whose period 2001 film Lagaan is only the third Indian film to be nominated for the Academy Awards.
“We are still trying to go global. I think Indian filmmakers are thinking out of the box now. The process has begun,” he said.
De Niro’s film Silver Linings Playbook, which also stars Indian actor Anupam Kher, will be the red carpet gala on Monday night. Both actors are expected to attend.
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival will run until November 24.
By David Tusing