The eleventh Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) which was hosted by the leading city showcased a stunning range of cinematic treats and daily red carpet galas asserting its emerging status as the perfect venue for great films. A report
The eleventh Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) showcases a slate of daily red carpet galas, where the glamour and excitement of the world of cinema was displayed to full effect.
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, DIFF’s Artistic Director said: “The list of gala films is a cross-section of the international film industry in 2014; we have a number of regional productions that will satisfy appetites for Arabic cinema, as well as big box office draws that will allow UAE residents to see the year’s biggest films, including two films from the UAE and Bahrain”.
And the variety on offer was a cinematic treat for movie buffs. The first red carpet Gala was The Water Diviner, which sees Russell Crowe returning to his Australian roots in his directorial debut. One hundred years after the First World War, the tragic antipodean losses at the Battle of Gallipoli are still commemorated each year. Crowe plays a father who travels to Turkey after the battle to find his three missing sons. The second gala of the day was Dearest, the latest by Hong Kong directing sensation Peter Ho-Sun Chan. Based on a true story the film topped the box office in mainland China with its touching and candid treatment of the very real problem of child abductions.
Three galas took place on December 12, starting with the first Children’s Gala Paper Planes, a touching 3D family drama from Australian director Robert Connolly. The film follows a young boy who joins forces with his estranged father to compete in the World Paper Planes competition in Tokyo. Later, Boychoir, a crowd-pleasing musical from acclaimed Quebecois director Francois Girard, stars Dustin Hoffman as a demanding music teacher who pushes a newly orphaned young boy to pursue his passion for singing. Finally, Dolphins, shortlisted this year for the Muhr Feature Award and IWC Filmmaker Award-winning film by Emirati director Waleed Al Shehhi follows three intertwined stories.
On December 13, festival-goers were treated to a second Children’s Gala, Santa Claus by Alexandre Coffre which follows six-year-old Antoine who wants to take a sleigh ride through the sky with Father Christmas. The second gala, the directorial debut of Italian actor Andrea Di Stefano, Escobar: Paradise Lost was a melodrama about notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar played by Benicio del Toro. The third gala was The Sleeping Tree, directed by Bahraini director Mohammed Rashed Buali, which was short-listed for the 2012 IWC Filmmaker Award and supported by DIFF’s Enjaaz programme and Emirates NBD. It is set in the heart of a contemporary Bahraini family struggling with the serious illness of their daughter.
On December 14, the prolific Egyptian director Daoud Abdel Sayed presented his latest feature Out of the Ordinary, shortlisted for the Muhr Feature Award, which follows a new and untraditional story that hasn’t been introduced in Arab cinema before. When his scientific investigation of the paranormal yields naught, Yehia takes a forced vacation from his work and regular life.
The first gala on December 15 was Wild Tales, the Argentine entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar. Co-produced by Spanish cinema legend Pedro Almodovar, it is comprised of six short films united by the theme of vengeance. The second gala was the world premiere of Amir Ramses’ Cairo Time, also an anthology film, which tells three stories that take place in Cairo over a single day in the lives of a retired actress, a young divorcee, and a drug dealer on the run. It features legends of Egyptian cinema, including this year’s DIFF Lifetime Achievement Award honouree Nour El-Sherif.
On December 16, red carpet gala presented The Imitation Game, by Morten Tyldum, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII.
The eleventh Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) closed with a red carpet gala screening of Disney’s star-studded humorous and heartfelt fairy tale musical, Into the Woods. The film, which opened in local cinemas on Christmas Day, is an adaptation of the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim. Its plot takes pointers from several Grimm Brothers fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, and the film stars a range of well-known actors, including Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt.
The screening was preceded by a final slew of awards, which followed the Muhr Awards for the best in Arab cinema and the IWC Filmmaker Award, which focuses on the production of feature-length fiction films.
This year’s Audience Choice Award went to the French language film, Samba. The story follows an immigration officer, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, and a recent immigrant to France, played by Omar Sy. Make Up For Ever founder, Dany Sanz, was also given an award in recognition of her 30 years in the industry.
Red Carpet Gala
The prestigious event which attracted the top cinematic talent from around the world and witnessed leading names from the Arab film world; Hollywood and Bollywood converge in celebration of the celluloid screen’s enduring mystique and power to entertain, educate and spread much-needed social messages.
Notable among these was the 68-year-old Egyptian acting legend, Nour El-Sherif who was honoured at the opening ceremony with a Lifetime Achievement Award whose latest movie, Cairo Time witnessed a world premiere on 15 Dec, the lovely British actress and Golden Globe Winner Emily Blunt whose movie ‘Into the Woods’ premiered at the event, the ‘Desperate Housewives’ star Eva Longoria and French-Ukrainian actress Olga Kurlyenko, best known for her roles in action movies such as Oblivion and Hitman, as well as the 007 adventure Quantum of Solace.
IWC Schaffhausen brand ambassador Emily Blunt presented the IWC Filmmaker Award to Abdullah Boushahri for his film “The Water”. For the third consecutive year Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC, ‘Official Sponsor’ and ‘Festival-Time’ Partner of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), collaborated with the Festival to recognize one talented filmmaker from the region with the esteemed award. Held at the One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai, the “For the Love of Cinema” awards ceremony was a prestigious gala held to honour the winner whose film was chosen by a jury of internationally renowned film industry experts such as actress Emily Blunt and film director Marc Forster. The star-studded event counted a private concert by American musician Aloe Blacc among its highlights.
The DIFF 2014 had a charitable side to it too when American actress Eva Longoria hosted the Global Gift Gala at Dubai’s Meydan Hotel in association with the Dubai International Film Festival and Dubai Cares.
The 39-year-old, best known for her role as Gabrielle Solis in Desperate Housewives, is an honorary chair of the Global Gift Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps to raise funds to improve the lives of disadvantaged children, women and families around the world.
Those in attendance paid Dh 2,500 each for a ticket, which included a four-course meal, a charity auction and entertainment headlined by American singer Cody Wise, 18. Also performing was Lebanese singer Walid Toufic, Britain’s Alexandra Burke and emerging Scottish talent Tallia Storm.