Now in its third year, the 2006 Dubai International Film Festival opened Sunday in the United Arab Emirates with Emilio Estevez's latest, "Bobby." The program for the event includes a mix of international titles from the West, alongside new Arabic titles from the Gulf States, as well as movies from The Levant and North Africa, according to organizers. A total of 115 movies from 47 countries are on tap for the festival, opening Sunday night (December 14th) and running through December 17th.
With a two-pronged main program, the Dubai International Film Festival offers a compeition for new Arab films, as well as an out of competition section for Arab and international cinema. The Muhr competition for new Arab film includes 10 titles in each of three (narrative, documentary and short) categories, highlighting movies that have not screened in the UAE previously. The filmmakers are competing for $325,000 in cash prizes.
"We are featuring more films this year than ever before, and we have cast the net wide geographically as well," said DIFF chairman Abdulhamid Juma, in a statement. "Festival guests will be able to see a Moroccan film in the morning, an African film in the afternoon, and a Hollywood offering in the evening. What we are most proud of, however, is the extent of our Arabic programming, which we will continue to expand as part of our mandate to stimulate Arabic filmmaking."
In the narrative competition this year are Faouzi Bensaidi's French/German/Moroccan film "WWW: What a Wonderful World," Hala Khalil's Egyptian entry "Qass We Lazq" (Cut & Paste), Jilani Saadi's Tunisian title "Ors El Dhib" (Tender Is The Wolf), Salma Baccar's Tunisian film "Khochkhach" (Flower of Forgetfulness), Rachid Bouchareb's French, Moroccan, Algerian and Belgian film "Indigenes" (Days of Glory), Bassam Al Thawadi's Bahrain entry "Hekaya Bahrainiya" (A Bahraini Tale), Michel Kammoun's Lebanese film "Falafel," Djamila Sahraoui's Algerian/French film "Barakati," Ghassan Salhab's Lebanese/French title "Atal" (The Last Man), and Hakim Belabbes's Moroccan entry "Alesh A Lebhar?" (Why O'Sea?).
Meanwhile, competiting for the Muhr Award in the documentary section are Nejib Belkadhi's Tunisian title "V.H.S. - Kahloucha," Tahani Rached's Egyptian film "These Girls," Tamer Ezzat's Egyptian film "The Place I Call Home," Walid Al Awadi's Kuwaiti entry "Storm of the South," Mohammed Bakri's Palestinian entry "Since You Left," Samir Abdallah's Egyptian/Moroccan entry "Quo Vadis?," Dima Al-Joundi's Lebanese entry "Maid for Sale," Hala Al Abdalla Yakoub and Ammar Al Beik's Syrian film "I Am The One Who Brings Flowers to Her Grave," Mai Masri's Lebanese title "Beirut Diaries: Truth, Lies and Videos," and Khadija Al-Salami's "Amina" from Yemen.
Dedicated programs for Arab filmmakers include Arabian Nights for films from leading director and Emerging Emiratis with films from UAE Nationals. The festival's Mosaic sidebar includeg moves that didn't quite fit in another section, but were deemed important by programmers.
Other DIFF sidebars include Operation Cultural Bridge for work aimed at mending "the rift in cross-cultural understanding between the Muslim world and the West." Cafe Europe will present work from the countries including the UK, France, Italy and Spain, while Insights from Asia will highlight films from a number of Asian countries, including Japan, China, Philippines and South Korea. The "Cinema from the Subcontinent" section will include work from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, including Bollywood, with the Destination Documentary program features non-fiction titles, In Honor of Africa presents films from that continent, Contemporary World Cinema is an overview of international titles and Cinema for Children presents movies that will appeal to younger viewers.
"Our programming roster for 2006 truly reflects a representative sampling of the best in cinema today," said Simon Field, festival Artistic Director, International Programming, in a statement. "It is an opportunity for festival goers to touch on the experience of people leading different lives in disparate places around the globe through the medium of cinema, which is true to DIFF's motto, 'Bridging Cultures, Meeting Minds.'"
Sunday's opening night festivities were set to include the screening of Estevez' long-in-the-works project, which takes an unconventional look at the hours leading up to the assassination of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy at Los Angeles' legendary Ambassador Hotel. The "Bobby" showing was set to precede a 1,000 person party at the Madinat Jumeirah resort in Dubai, including opening night film stars Joshua Jackson and Laurence Fishburne and a live beachside concert performance by Mos Def.
indieWIRE Editor-in-Chief Eugene Hernandez is in Dubai and will be reporting from the festival later this week.