Monday, November 29, 2010

14 UAE films, filmmakers to compete for honours in DIFF’s first Muhr Emirati competition

First edition of contest includes 12 world premieres; The Philosopher, Malal, Solo, Rajulan Wa Anza – Laylat Ma Qabl Al Eid (Two Guys and a Goat – The Night Before Eid), Brownbook Urban Series, Ea’ada (Rewind), Reeh (Wind), Etma (Darkness), Hayat Min Sakhar (Life of Stone), Soweer, Ghawas Gaza (Gaza Diver) and Rasa’el Ela Falasteen (Letters To Palestine).
Two additional films competing in Muhr Emirati and Muhr Rab competion are Sabeel and Hamama.

Fourteen films made by UAE nationals will compete in the seventh Dubai International Film Festival’s first Muhr Emirati competition next month, giving the region and the world its first look at the new wave of national talent. The films – including 12 world premieres will screen to the UAE public and regional and international guests from December 12 to 19, prior to the awards ceremony on December 19.
The Muhr Emirati competition, introduced earlier this year to round out the Festival’s prestigious Muhr Arab and Muhr AsiaAfrica competitions, shortlisted the 14 films from more than 30 entries. The films, which offer rare and authentic glimpses into life in the country, are also a measure of the growing talent pool and technical expertise in the country.
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director, Dubai International Film Festival said: “Since the Festival began in 2004, DIFF has maintained a dedicated space for Emirati films and filmmakers, one that has continued to grow over the years to match the evolution of the local talent base. Developing a local film industry is a painstaking and time-consuming process. We are delighted that talented youth in the UAE have recognized and leveraged the opportunities on offer at Diff, and are contributing to establishing a full-fledged UAE-based film industry.”
Abdulla Al Kaabi’s The Philosopher, is based on ‘Baggio’s Story’ by Charlie Fish. Baggio is a successful Parisian, a pianist, footballer and bon vivant, yet he feels there is something missing from his life and one day decides to rid himself of all his possessions and embark on a life of aesthetic contemplation. However, things don’t quite go according to plan. The Philosopher, starring Jean Reno, will be a Diff red carpet gala screening at the Madinat Arena on December 18, and will also screen at CineStar Mall of the Emirates (MoE) on December 18 and 19.
Nayla Al Khaja's Malal, an Emirati production set in the Indian state of Kerala, revolves around a young Emirati couple on their honeymoon. Their approach to the relationship and commitment to the marriage is the theme of the film, providing a revealing and frank insight into the realities of arranged marriages and the challenges faced by modern-day Emirati couples. The new film, pictured in India, from the award-winning Emirati director will screen at the MoE on December 15 and 17.
Theatre and film actor Ali Al Jabri’s short film Solo, also screening at MoE on December 15 and 17, narrates the story of a musician who was unable to achieve his pursuit of music. The censored music of his instrument can now be heard by people.
Rajulan Wa Anza – Laylat Ma Qabl Al Eid (Two Guys and a Goat – The Night Before Eid)
Rajulan Wa Anza – Laylat Ma Qabl Al Eid (Two Guys and a Goat – The Night Before Eid) by Saeed Aldhaheri revolves around the rising cost of buying a goat. Two enterprising young men find a creative solution: to steal a goat and cook it in front of its helpless owner, who has been tied up. Audiences at MoE on December 14 and 16 can follow the goat-rustlers as their meticulously laid plans go awry.
Rashid and Ahmed Bin Shabib, the co-founders of Brownbook, the region's leading arts and culture periodical, are the driving forces behind one of the films aimed at exploring the urban culture of the region. Through a series of conversations with individuals transforming the UAE's urban scene through its food, design, arts or other creative means, the film Brownbook Urban Series – Ten Episodes of People Transforming the Region, paints an interesting picture of the future. The film will screen at MoE theatres on December 18 and 19.
Writer-director Muna Al Ali’s film Ea’ada (Rewind) considers an often-asked question: What would happen if we could delve into our memories and change the course of events, or even delete them entirely? Her short film will screen at the MoE on December 15 and 17.
Elsewhere, award-winning director Waleed Al Shehhi returns to DIFF for a fourth year with allegorical short film Reeh (Wind), which begins as a young child steps on a rusty nail, which slowly infects his blood. The film will also screen at MoE on December 15 and 17.
Ahmed Zain’s Etma (Darkness), showing at MoE on December 14 and 16, is a sweet nostalgic film about the life of a postman in a bygone era. Set in the early years of the UAE’s existence, we meet a postman whose daily life revolves around two major touchstones – his job and his son. From both, he draws (and provides) support and love.
Moath Bin Hafez’s Hayat Min Sakhar (Life of Stone) portrays the story of Saeed Al Thuhoory, a 70-year old man from Shaam, Ras Al Khaimah. Since the age of 10, he has worked with his father, quarrying rocks and stones from the mountains that surround the emirate. Hayat Min Sakhar (Life of Stone) can be seen at MoE on December 18 and 19.
Saud Mohammed Merwesh’s Soweer captures the reality and imagination of a traditional children’s game. His short film will screen at MoE on December 14 and 16.
Filmed earlier this year in Dubai, Ghawas Gaza (Gaza Diver), a documentary by award-winning photographer Ali Khalifa Bin Thalith, follows courageous Palestinian teenager Khalil al Jedaili, who lost his legs after a horrific bombing of his grandmother’s home in Gaza. Brought to Dubai in March to be fitted for prosthetic legs, the young man decided to start practicing scuba diving while he was here. The film, which tracks his journey, will screen on December 18 and 19.
Rasa’el Ela Falasteen (Letters To Palestine), a documentary by Rashid Al-Marri, features the voices of Emiratis and UAE residents sending their oral letters to Palestinian people living under occupation. From young to old, the Arabs captured in this film have the chance to send their stories and their love to the homes, families and children of Palestine. The film will screen at MoE on December 14 and 16.
Two additional films are also competing in both the Muhr Emirati and the Festival’s Muhr Arab competition. Khalid Al Mahmood’s Sabeel, the story of two young boys in Ras Al Khaimah tending and selling vegetables to help their ailing grandmother, will make its Middle East premiere at Diff after scooping awards and accolades in New York and Locarno.
Lastly, the documentary film Hamama, from award-winning director Nujoom Al Ghanem, follows the 90-year-old female healer and living legend from Al Dhaid. Sought out by hundreds of people every day, Hamama struggles to care for all those who need it while confronting her own infirmities and hardships. The film, a world premiere, will screen on December 15 and 17.
A three-member jury, including film critic Samir Farid (president), writer-poet and Riyadh Film Festival veteran Ahmed Al-Mulla and poet/critic Ibrahim Abdul Karim Al Mulla, will select three competition winners to be announced at the awards ceremony on December 19. Introduced this year as a companion to the Festival’s existing Muhr Arab and Muhr AsiaAfrica awards, the Muhr Emirati Awards features a first prize of Dhs35,000, a special jury prize of Dhs25,000 and a second prize of Dhs15,000.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

DIFF’s Rhythm & Reels showcases bio-pics, musicals and Live concerts

Celebrating the union of cinema and music, the Rhythm & Reels segment of the Seventh Dubai International Film Festival this year showcases a spectacular line-up of bio-pics and musicals, complemented by live performances by popular Arab and international acts from Rima Khcheich, Massar Egbari and Y-Crew to a mariachi ensemble specially flown in from Mexico.
The DIFF 2010 Rhythm & Reels line-up includes compelling documentaries on John Lennon and American rock band The Doors, as well as leading underground acts from Egypt. Screening at DIFF venues at the Mall of the Emirates and the new DIFF outdoor venue, The Walk at JBR, Rhythm & Reels will feature 11 films – four documentaries and seven features – all with a rich musical undercurrent.
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director, Dubai International Film Festival said: “DIFF’s Rhythm & Reels is aimed at integrating two vibrant artforms – films and music. In addition to paying cinematic tribute to some of the world’s legendary musicians, this year DIFF is showcasing an eclectic selection of music-based movies from around the world. We have also worked to maximize the community’s interaction with these films by organizing concerts and a new outdoor venue.”
Mexican classic Enamorada, the story of guerrilla general José Juan Reyes and his love for a rich man’s daughter, will screen at The Walk at JBR on Wednesday, December 15. The screening, part of DIFF 2010’s celebration of Mexican cinema, will be followed by a concert featuring 12 performers from Mexico, the six-member mariachi Grupo Impulsor de la Musica Representativa de Mexico and a six-member team of folk dancers from the Ballet Folklorico Yolitzi Widen de La Laguna.
My Wife’s Husband (Jaoz Marti) starring DIFF’s Lifetime Achievement Award’s recipient, Sabah, is the comic love story of a woman torn between two husbands. Renowned Lebanese singer Rima Khcheich, a musical icon in the Arab world, will perform at The Walk at JBR following the screening on Thursday, December 16.
Microphone, a film by Heliopolis director Ahmed Abdallah El-Sayed, stars Khaled Aboul Naga, Menna Shalaby, Atef Yousef, Yosra El-Lozy and Hany Adel. It traces the life of Khaled, who returns to Alexandria after years of travel only to discover that things aren't going too well with either his girlfriend or his aging father.
Following the screening of Microphone, Rhythm & Reels will host Arab rock-fusion band Massar Egbari, and underground hip-hop band the Y-Crew in concert on Friday, December 17. The award-winning Massar Egbari, which formed in 2005, specializes in alternative Egyptian music, fusing rock, jazz and blues with pure Oriental music. Y-Crew, the three-member Egyptian hip hop band, will also perform at the concert at The Walk at JBR.
LENNONNYC, from the genius mind of Michael Epstein, gives audiences a glimpse of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s life in New York in the 1970s. Featuring exclusive interviews with Ono and behind-the-scenes access to one of rock and roll’s biggest legends, LENNONNYC is guaranteed to leave music lovers wanting more.
In a compelling take on the musical stylings of The Doors, Tom DiCillo’s When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors uncovers rare footage of the band that changed the outlook of rock n’ roll music. The film reveals the creative chemistry of the band, and provides glances into the magic of the music created by The Doors.
Rahma Benhamou El Madani’s Tagnawittude delves into the Gwana music ritual in the Maghreb. The documentary analyses the life of Amazigh Kateb and his band Gwana Diffusion, the talent behind a unique style of music since 1992.
The Piano in a Factory
Shahin Parhami’s Amin is about a postgraduate music student, researching for a doctorate degree at the Kiev Conservatory. Part of his programme requires him to explore the increasingly elusive folk music of the ancient Qashqai tribes of southern Iran. This journey of discovery, a fascinating exploration into the heartlands of Iran uncovers a once-vibrant cultural force now eroded into near obsolescence.
To fight for the custody of his daughter, a steel factory worker decides to create a piano from scratch to compete for her love for the instrument in Zhang Meng’s The Piano in a Factory. A ballad of friendship and dedication, the film captures the essence of unspoken wisdom and nostalgia in uncertain times.
Tickets for Rhythm & Reels screenings will be available at all DIFF Box Office, and are priced at Dhs25 for movie screenings only and Dhs45 for the screening and concert. Students/children can purchase tickets for Dhs25.

Best of contemporary cinema focused on the Arab world will screen at DIIF ‘Arabian Nights’ slate

Eleven films representing the best of contemporary international cinema focused on the Arab world will screen at seventh Dubai International Film Festival [Dec 12-19], providing a typical look at some of the issues and subjects that absorb the Arab world.
The Festival’s Arabian Nights segment of this year includes dramas, comedies, musicals and thrillers by international directors depicting slices of life in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Algeria and Mauritania. They include two world premieres, one international premiere, six that are new to the Middle East and two new to the Gulf region; and a host of unusual collaborations.
Set in Iraq but made in Italy, 20 Cigarettes is the story of one man’s journey back from the brink of death. The film pivots on a 2003 suicide bomb attack on a police station in Nasiriyah.
Two documentaries look at the cathartic power of cinema. Made in the Netherlands, Baghdad Film School is the true story of Iraqi-born filmmakers Maysoon Pachachi and Kasim Abid, who decided to open the first independent film school in Iraq only a few months after its liberation.
Farther north in Iraqi Kurdistan, British filmmaker Mark Cousins discovers that despite being a thriving community, the people of Goptapa are still haunted by Saddam Hussein’s genocidal massacres. While trying to capture the village’s collective memories of war, Cousins manages to tap the fertile imaginations of its children. His documentary, The First Movie, documents the children’s joy and excitement as they encounter cinema for the first time and then start to create their own short stories.
Bullet Time
Also set in Iraqi Kurdistan, Bullet Time tells the story of two humanitarian workers who brave curfew to save their interpreter's son, wounded by a landmine.

The Flowers of Kirkuk, probably one of the first Italian-Iraqi film collaborations to date, looks onto star-crossed lovers and doctors Najla and Sherko who know they can’t be together as one is Kurdish and the other from a prominent Arab family.
he City of the Dead
In Cairo, director Sérgio Tréfaut’s The City of the Dead takes a closer look at the sprawl of ancient tombs, mausoleums, and crypts in the heart of the city. The area, dubbed ‘El Arafa’ (The Cemetery), by the locals, is also home to a community of nearly a million Cairenes living amongst the long-dead.
In Fragments of a Lost Palestine, filmmaker Norma Marcos tries to show her friend Stefan how normal people try to live normal lives outside of the occupation, and that there is a vibrant side of Palestine that exists outside of grim reports of violence and war.
Iranian director Taha Karimi sets his first, beautifully filmed, dramatic feature against the violent yet stunning backdrop of the Qandil mountains, where the borders of Turkey, Iran and Iraq meet. The Qandil Mountains, featuring veteran stage and screen actor Qotbeddin Sadeqi, attempts to draw the common concerns that link Arab with Kurd, Turkmen with Persian.
Antonia Carver, Consultant for DIFF’s Arab Programme, said: "These are incredibly diverse stories, yet the films are universal in their approach, focusing on individuals, families and communities, and touching on the extraordinary within these 'ordinary' situations. If we had to look for one constant, it would be the integrity and bravery of the filmmakers and their crews, who have made films in the most extreme of circumstances, with total humanity, making for such rich and compelling films."
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director of the Dubai International Film Festival, said: “The films in this year’s Arabian Nights programme have an entirely different approach. We’re seeing foreign films based in the region and starring Arabs and non-Arabs, Arab films starring celebrated stage actors, and Arab films made entirely outside the region. People are experimenting more, and the results are very worthwhile discoveries.”
Arabian Nights 2010 also includes Il Padre E Lo Straniero (The Father and the Foreigner) by Ricky Tognazzi, a suspenseful drama from top crime novelist Giancarlo De Cataldo involving a rich Syrian businessman based in Rome who finds himself accused of terrorism. The film, starring the Arab world’s Nadine Labaki and Amr Waked alongside Alessandro Gassman, follows a Roman bureaucrat with a handicapped son who strikes up a friendship with the businessman, also the father of a severely handicapped boy, which ends in a chase through the crowded streets of Rome.
Mohammed Soudani’s El Mektoub (Taxiphone), about a young Swiss couple whose truck breaks down halfway through the Algerian desert leaving them to come to terms with the surrounding community, is also a Middle East premiere.
Finally, Adrift: People of a Lesser God, is the story of an incredible odyssey made by multiple Pulitzer Prize-nominee undercover journalist Dominique Mollard as he sailed with 38 African migrants from Mauritania on a quest to reach Europe and a better life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DIFF 10 to focus on Arab cinema, unveils 157 films from 57 countries

The King’s Speech based on the true story of King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II is the opening film of Diff 2010. The male lead of the film Colin Firth will walk at the red carpet.
DIFF honours two time Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn, veteran African director Souleymane Cisse and Lebanese singer and actress Sabah with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bollywood hit maker Karan Johar and actress Aparna Sen will attend the DIFF 2010.
Master Director Peter Weir, actor Jim Sturges, Collin Farrell and Ed Harris will be in Dubai for the red carpet gala screening of The Way Back.
The closing gala film of the DIIF 2010 is Disney’s long awaited 3D high tech adventure Tron: Legacy.

Sean Penn
The Seventh Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) to be held from Dec.12 to 19 is set to unveil 157 films from 57 nations, with outstanding Arab programming at its core.
Officials highlighted the Diff as the leading festival in the world, at a press conference held on Tuesday in Majlis Al ‘Salam, Mina Al Salam, Dubai.
Abdulhamid Juma, Diff chairman, Masoud Amralla Al Ali, artistic director at Diff, and Shivani Pandya, Managing Director of Diff outlined what’s in store for DIFF 2010, including the impressive line-up of films, The Dubai Film Market and the celebrities attending the event.
Diff 2010 unveils an outstanding array of contemporary Arab cinema, a robust competition segment and a film market growing from strength to strength and enhanced access for the public.
Amongst its roster of films from South America, Taiwan Sweden and South Africa, Diff features 41 world premiers, a 30 per cent growth from last year. Diff 2010 has 13 International premieres, 58 Middle East premieres and 32 Gulf premieres, and a host of A-List talent. Among the 157 Diff 2010 films, 70 are regarding Arab people, subjects and places.

Ed Harris and Colin Farrell in The Way Back
The celebrity line-up participating in the Diff 2010 include celebrated American actor, director, screenwriter and activist Sean Penn. He will be honoured with the Diff 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. The male lead Colin Firth of the opening film King’s Speech will walk at the red carpet. Others include Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess and director and producer Peter Weir will all be in Dubai for the red carpet gala screening of The Way Back.
Other important red carpet events are the Arabian gala screening of 678, one of the most anticipated films from Egyptian cinema and the controversial Egyptian love story Cairo Exit from the Diff Cultural Bridge segment.
Also, the polish film Tomorrow Will Be Better will screen from the festival’s Cinema of World Programme. Emirati filmmaker Abdullah Al Ka’abi’s maiden venture The Philosopher will also be screened from its Muhr competition.
Reign of Assassins
Chinese martial arts extravaganza Reign of Assassins from the Festival’s cinema of Asia Africa slate will also be shown. Actor Jean Rino, Carey Mulligan, Africa’s Souleymane Cisse and Arab stars Khaled Abol Naga, Bushra, Nelly Karim, Saba Mubarak, Ayman Zeidan, Samar Sami and Raghda are the international celebrities attending the prestigious event.
Abdul hamid Juma, Chairman Diff said “The seventh edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will be extra special not only for the powerful showcase of movies, but also for the largest selection of quality, contemporary Arab cinema anywhere in the world.”
Nutcracker and The Rat King
The Festivals Arab films, representing the length and breadth of the Arab world, are primarily distributed among its in-competition Muhr Arab and Muhr Emirati Awards segment and its out-of-competition Arabian Nights and Gulf Voices segments. The competitions will be judged by professional juries and all screenings are open to the public.
 Underscoring the growing prestige of the Festival’s competition, Diff’s in-competition Muhr Awards have scooped a record 848 entries, with the Muhr Arab segment drawing 62 feature films, 228 short films, and 113 documentary films.
The Muhr AsiaAfrica competition, dedicated for filmmakers from Asia and Africa, similarly received 445 entries, encompassing 136 feature films, 199 short films, and 110 documentary films.
The Festival’s new Muhr Emirati competition, introduced to further strengthen and recognise rising Emirati talent, received 25 feature films, short films, and documentaries.