The 12th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Wednesday unveiled its line-up of 134 films from 60 countries alongside a bustling industry portfolio at the Dubai Film Market, a robust competition and a plethora of special events.
The Festival, which runs from December 9 to 16, spans feature, documentary and short films including 55 world premieres and international premieres, 46 MENA premieres, 11 Middle East premieres and 17 GCC premieres. The films, made in more than 40 languages, populate DIFF’s Arab and Emirati competitions, and its out-of-competition segments dedicated to children, the Arab world and cinema from around the globe.
The DIFF 2015 selection also showcases an impressive slate of contemporary Arab cinema, with more than 70 biopics, comedies, dramas and love stories from the Arabian Peninsula, Levant and North Africa. More than half of these – 40 – are making their global debuts in Dubai; an additional nine are international premieres.
This year, DIFF will open on 9th December with Lenny Abrahamson’s suspenseful and heartrending drama Room based on Emma Donoghue’s 2010 best-selling novel of the same name. Room recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Room is a story of survival recounting the tale of a mother, played by Brie Larson, and her young son Jack, played by Jacob Temblay.
Internationally renowned screenwriter, director, comedian and actor Adam McKay’s star-studded financial-crisis comedy-drama The Big Short, based on Michael Lewis’ best-selling novel, will close the curtain on the 12th edition. Featuring a stellar cast that includes Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell, the four play outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the spectacular collapse of the credit and housing markets in the mid-2000’s, and who decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.
Abdulhamid Juma, Chairman of DIFF, said: “Every year the Dubai International Film Festival continues to prove itself as one of the world’s leading Film Festivals for both film fans and the wider film industry. For eight days in December the UAE, the region and the world will come together in Dubai to celebrate the magic of cinema. Works from some of the world’s most talented directors and acclaimed actors will be screened across the city; new connections will be forged at the Dubai Film Market; and all eyes will be on Arab cinema as DIFF once again provides a platform to support cinema from around the region. With such an impressive showcase of films, acclaimed talent, industry programmes and special events at this year’s DIFF, I am prouder than ever to see an incredible line-up of quality contemporary Arab cinema that continues to challenge perspectives and stand tall alongside international counterparts.”
At the opening ceremony, DIFF will present four prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards, recognising these individuals’ incredible contributions to cinema. The first of which will be presented to legendary Egyptian actor Ezzat Al Alayli whose impressive career spans over five decades. The second award goes to internationally acclaimed French-Tunisian actor Sami Bouajila and the third Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to prolific Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah, whose incredible career has seen him appear in over 200 films across 40 years. The fourth award will be presented to the one of the of the world’s most distinguished actresses Catherine Deneuve who has appeared in more than 120 films.
A panel of renowned professionals from the film industry will comprise the prestigious Muhr Awards jury. The awards aim to recognise talent from the UAE and wider Arab world and have highlighted more than 280 cinematic works to date.
DIFF’s Muhr Feature competition jury will be headed up by the Oscar nominated screenwriter, director and producer, Deepa Mehta.
The Muhr Emirati competition will be led by double Oscar-winning Danish producer Kim Magnusson. He will be joined by renowned Kuwaiti journalist Abdul Sattar Naji and Dr. Hessa Abdullah Lootah, the first Emirati female television director who was recently honoured by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai at the UAE Pioneers Award 2015, for her contributions to the UAE’s success.
Joining Deepa Mehta on the jury will be: award-winning Australian independent documentary filmmaker, Tom Zubrycki; Egyptian Actor Khaled El Nawabi; acclaimed Emirati filmmaker Nujoom Al-Ghanem; and Iraqi filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi.
The Muhr Short and Gulf Short competition will be headed up by Oscar nominated Icelandic director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. He will be joined by Tunisian director Hinde Boujemaa and Emirati director and producer Ali F. Mostafa.
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, DIFF Artistic Director, said: “The exceptional talent on show in this year’s Muhr competition is proof of the increasing number of talented filmmakers in the Arab world. Since its inception the Muhr Competition has cemented its reputation as a crucial springboard for filmmakers here in the region to showcase their work to global audiences and win acclaim. The 60 films in competition this year will capture our hearts, minds and the world’s attention as we showcase work from established filmmakers in tandem with the latest up-and-comers which makes for a diverse and rich selection for our audiences.”
Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Hany Abu-Assad will take the role as Head of the Jury for the fourth IWC Filmmaker Award. He will be joined by: acclaimed Tunisian actress Hend Sabry; Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen; Abdulhamid Juma, Chairman of DIFF; and Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director of DIFF. The award offers a US$ 100,000 cash prize to one winning filmmaker which will be presented at an event hosted by ‘Supported By’ Sponsor and ‘Festival-Time’ Partner IWC Schaffhausen on Thursday, December 10th. Last year, Abdullah Boushahri received the IWC Filmmaker Award from IWC Schaffhausen brand ambassador Emily Blunt for his project Water, which is currently in production.
Running concurrently with the DIFF, the Dubai Film Market (DFM) is a vital part of the festival and now considered the leading industry platform in the region and the gateway to the one of the fastest growing film and TV markets in the world. Since its inception, the Dubai Film Market has supported more than 270 projects and co-produced more than 100 films which have gone on to enjoy critical acclaim and find new audiences across the globe. The 12th edition’s industry events programme will create new opportunities for filmmakers and film professionals to share their knowledge, make new connections and develop partnerships, enabling them the support they need to bring their projects to the big screen and audiences around the world.
Throughout the week festival-goers can attend the wide range of more than 28 panel discussions and master classes at the Dubai Film Market. Highlights include a conversation with Netflix Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, and a day devoted to film finance as well as an exploration of Virtual Reality. There are also networking sessions for serious industry business, offering total script-to-screen support for emerging filmmakers including talent development, co-production, post-production support and a trade platform.
Shivani Pandya, DIFF Managing Director, said: “The DFM is central to the Festival as it creates a range of opportunities for emerging talent from the region to meet international filmmakers and professionals. Twelve film projects will be showcased at our co-production market – the Dubai Film Connection (DFC) – with the hope of securing crucial funding and beneficial partnerships within the film industry. I am also thrilled to confirm that 16 remarkable films in the line-up this year have been supported by Enjaaz, the market’s post-production and production support programme. Many films that we supported over the years have found acclaim on the global stage, and we are honoured to have been a part of the journey.”
On the opening night of the DIFF film fans at THE BEACH, located opposite JBR, will be able to watch all the action live as it unfolds from the red carpet. Following this, THE BEACH will host the world premiere of Halkawt Mustafa’s captivating adventure El Clásico which follows two brothers on a risky trip all the way from Iraqi Kurdistan to Spain, to meet Cristiano Ronaldo.
THE BEACH screenings throughout the week include; Max Fadeev’s family fantasy adventure Savva. Heart of the Warrior on the 10th; Hany Abu-Assad’s uplifting The Idol on the 11th; Steven Spielberg’s Jaws which celebrates its 40th anniversary on the 12th; Nicholas Hytner’s unique and witty story The Lady in the Van on the 13th; Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken’s moving and uplifting documentary Song of Lahore on the 14th; Farid Eslam’s musical documentary Yallah! Underground on the 15th and Ella Lemhagen’s romantic comedy All Roads Lead to Rome closes the beach screenings on the 16th.
DIFF cinemagoers and movie peers from around the world will be treated to numerous Red Carpet Galas and the opportunity to watch regular screenings throughout the week at DIFF’s purpose built state-of-the-art screening venue the Madinat Arena. In addition there will be a series of red carpet presentations at the Madinat Theatre in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah and screening of the best films from around the world at VOX cinemas, Mall of the Emirates.
These screenings will kick off on Thursday 10th December with ‘Zinzana’, the highly anticipated neo-noir thriller from Emirati director Majid Al Ansari, and will be followed by Ayman Jamal and Khurram Al Alavi’s animated creation ‘Bilal’, a visually stunning action-adventure film.
Friday 11th will present a triple bill of screenings at the Arena beginning with a Children’s Gala for Steve Martino’s ‘The Peanuts Movie’ which brings Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang to the big screen. This will be followed by Peter Landes’ dramatic thriller ‘Concussion’, starring Will Smith, and Larry Yang’s Chinese drama ‘Mountain Cry’ which will close the day.
DIFF’s Saturday Children’s Red Carpet Gala, ‘Valley of Knights; Mira’s Magical Christmas’, directed by Thale Persen, is a festive film for the whole family and begins proceedings on Saturday 12th. The evening galas start with the inspirational biopic ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’, directed by Matt Brown and starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons; followed by the suspenseful and dramatic award-winning film ‘The Clan’, by Argentinian director Pablo Trapero.
‘Halal Love’ – a compelling tragic comedy from Lebanese director Assad Fouladkar, preceded by the final film of acclaimed actor Omar Sharif’s career before his untimely passing in July, ‘1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham’ from the award-winning director and producer Ahmed Salim will screen on Sunday 13th. This is followed by the comedy drama ‘Family Fang’ from acclaimed actor and director Jason Bateman with an all-star cast including Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken and Bateman himself.
Monday 14th will enjoy two screenings: ‘The Daughter’, a dramatic family thriller from director Simon Stone, starring Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush; and the searing drama ‘Spotlight’ from Oscar nominated director Thomas McCarthy starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams.
Australian actor, director and writer Jeremy Sims’ heartwarming epic, ‘Last Cab to Darwin’ and gripping drama, ‘Truth’, starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett from American director, James Vanderbilt showcase on Tuesday 15th.
On December 12th DIFF will partner with Dubai Cares for the fifth year in a row, who for the second year will be presenting The Global Gift Gala as the official charity Gala of DIFF, with honorary Chair Eva Longoria and Founders Alina Peralta and Maria Bravo. The Global Gift Gala will be supporting The Eva Longoria Foundation – which provides education and entrepreneurship opportunities to women – Sunrise K Foundation, which raises awareness of childhood glaucoma, an eye disease that damages the optic nerve leading to vision distortion, vision loss and blindness, and the Global Gift Foundation with the opening of their first ‘GLOBAL GIFT HOUSE’ for children with special needs, providing medical treatments and therapy for those affected by rare diseases. Together they aim for women and children’s needs to survive and thrive within their communities and around the world.
DIFF also partners with FILMFARE Middle East magazine, the region’s leading magazine that connects Indian cinema with its audiences. Celebrating its 5th Anniversary in the Middle East, FILMFARE ME will be celebrating the completion of their five year journey by felicitating five iconic personalities across the movie and music industry.
Shah Rukh Khan, also known as the King of Bollywood along with versatile actress Kajol, Fawad Khan, South Indian superstar Nivin Pauly and acclaimed Emirati director Ali F. Mostafa will be felicitated on the evening. FILMFARE ME will also be giving out a lifetime achievement title to renowned musician and signer Bappi Lahiri who will be presented with the award at the Gala on the 12th December.
Festival goers are invited to attend a special presentation in partnership with Emirates Airline Festival of Literature titled ‘Great Adaptations: From Novel to Screen’. Robert Kanigel, the author of The Man Who Knew Infinity and acclaimed director Matt Brown will delve into the creative process of adapting a novel to the screen.
DIFF’s ‘In Conversation’ event on Wednesday 16th will be with Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, whose most recent credits include Nightcrawler, Southpaw, Everest and Demolition. He will be presented with Variety‘s ‘International Star of the Year’ Award in acknowledgment of his outstanding contribution to the industry.
The 12th edition of DIFF will see films screened over eight days at the Madinat Jumeirah Arena, Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah and VOX Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates and THE BEACH. Cinemagoers will be able to buy tickets from the DIFF box office, which will open online on Friday, November 27th at www.dubaifilmfest.com. Tickets will also be available from the box office at VOX Cinemas Mall of the Emirates from the November 27th and from the Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah and Madinat Arena, Madinat Jumeirah from December 9th.
International talent flying into Dubai this December include: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dev Patel, Jacob Tremblay, Richard Dreyfuss, Eva Longoria, Melanie Griffith, Michael B. Jordan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol Devgan, Kriti Sanon, Rohit Shetty, Fawad Khan, Deepa Mehta, Naseeruddin Shah, Kalki Koechlin, Niki Karimi, Bappi Lahiri, Kriti Sanon, Varun Dhawan, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Steve Martino, Craig Schulz, Larry Yang, Yueting Lang, Ziyi Wang, Victoria Hon, Ellen Eliasoph, Matt Brown, Ed Pressman, Guillermo Francella, Thale Persen, Simon Stone, Odessa Young, Jeremy Sims, Roger Michell, Philippe Faucon, Brillante Mendoza and Michael Caton.
Arab celebrities set to grace the red-carpet include: Hend Sabry, Maged Al Masry, Menna Shalaby, Hala Khalil, Mahmoud Hamida, Assad Fouladker, Darine Hamzeh, Rodrighue Soleiman, Mohammad Khan, Maged El Kedwany, Hana’ Shia, Ahmad Dawood, Hany Abu-Assad, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Eyad Hourani, Ashraf Barhoum, Ali Suliman, Mai Masri, Nadira Omran, Anisa Daoud, Nahed Al Sebaie, Hani Ramzy, Horya Farghaly, Rami Sabry, Ahmad Jamal, Hamada Helal, Dalia Al Buhairy, Reem Irhama, Amal Mohammed, Ameera Mohammad, Medhat Saleh, Ghadeer Al Sabti, Sherif Mounir, Lalya Eloui, Essad Younis.
From the GCC and UAE: Amal Al Awady, Khaled Ameen, Ibrahim Al Salal, Mohammed Jaber, Ibrahim Al–Harbi, Ali F.Mostafa, Nayla Al Khaja, Mohammed Saeed Harib, Saeed Salmeen Al Murry, Nojoom el Ghanem, Majed Al Ansari, Zahra Al Kharji, Ahd, Buthaina Al Raesy, Ibrahim Al Harbi, Khaled Al Briki, Reem Elrahma, Yasa Jumahh, Abdulla El Shehi, Mansour Al Feeli, Mariam Sultan, Ashjan, Abdallah Masoud, Fatima Al Taki, Abdallah Al Junaibi, Ala’a Shaker, Nermine Hassan, Amal Mohamad and Maysaa Moughrabi.
By Vighuti Arora
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