The sixth edition of Gulf Film Festival, which kicks off on April 11, made Saudi Arabian drama Wadjda the opening gala feature as the perfect “homecoming” for the celebrated film.
“The wheel of that bicycle has moved perfectly. Wadjda is really the story of a Gulf film which broke all records and shows us what a Gulf film can do outside the GCC,” said Abdulhamid Juma, the GFF festival Chairman in an interview on Tuesday. He added that this film, shot entirely in Saudi Arabia by the country’s first female filmmaker, Haifaa Al Mansour, was symbolic of what his festival stood for and the potential that it held.
“In 2007, the script was with us and in 2009 it got a grant from Dubai Film Connection. Then there was this boom. It won top prizes at the Venice Film Festival and it’s now playing in 12 countries. It was the third most watched film in France. It’s exciting and comforting to see its achievements. Wadjda is coming home now,” said Juma.
While the opening gala night is an invites-only event, the public can watch the film on April 16 at 9pm at Grand Cinemas in Dubai Festival City. Apart from winning three awards at Venice Film Festival, the feature won the Muhr Arab Feature and Best Actress Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in December 2012.
In the week-long festival, 169 films from 45 countries, subtitled in English and Arabic, will be showcased for the public for free. Out of the total number of films, 93 projects are helmed by filmmakers from the Gulf.
“This festival gives you an opportunity to see films that you were never going to see. These are films that will not be shown in theatres. There’s 119 nationalities living in Dubai. My tip? Go see what the locals think. Don’t make up your mind about them, thinking they drive in tinted cars or drive fast or wear something funny. You live here and you need to know how they think. Get inside their heads. You will be surprised because you may know something you never knew about them or you will find out that they are not very different from you,” said Juma, when asked about why residents should participate in GFF.
The spotlight will not be solely on Wadjda, a tale of a girl coveting a forbidden green bicycle. GFF will also honour Kuwaiti playwright, actor and screenwriter Mohammad Jaber.
An array of short films, animated features and films for children will roll out during the GFF week. While Dutch filmmaker Sandra Welte brings Lift Off, a tale of a clumsy bird named Joey, France’s Jeremy Clapin brings his quirky Palmipedarium, a tale about Simon who goes duck hunting with his father. Dubbed as an ideal platform for regional filmmakers to display their talents, more than Dh500,000 in funds are also up for grabs during the festival.
By Manjusha Radhakrishnan