The Dubai International Film Festival in the United Arab Emirates kicked off its second edition Sunday. "Paradise Now," directed by Hany Abu-Assad, opened the festival on December 11, with ninety-eight films from 46 countries to screen throughout the seven days of the festival.
"Our cultural bridge is a two-way bridge," said festival director and CEO Neil Stephenson in a statement. "We are reinforcing it in both directions by bringing the best of world cinema to Dubai, and taking the best of Arab cinema to the world from Dubai," he continued in his description of the festival's mission.
"Paradise Now" follows two young Palestinian men -- best friends since childhood -- as they prepare to carry out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. A young woman's discovery of their plans, however, leads them to reconsider their decision to die.
The festival will specially recognize six "gala" films, including "Water," written and directed by Deepa Mehta ("Fire," "Earth"). "Water" is about Hindu widows forced to live together in poverty in 1930s India. It is the final film in Mehta's trilogy of the elements. Some of the other gala films are Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's "L'Enfant" ("The Child"), about an impoverished young Belgian couple, and Mark Dornford-May's "U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha" ("Carmen in Khayelitsha"), a modern-day version of the opera "Carmen" set in South Africa. The closing night galas will be Ari Sandel's "West Bank Story," a musical comedy about competing falafel stands, and Christian Carion's "Joyeux Noel," about World War I soldiers who temporarily halt their fighting on Christmas Eve 1914.
"Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World," written and directed by Albert Brooks, is one of six films that will make their world premieres at the festival. Brooks plays a comedian sent by the U.S. government to Pakistan and India to find out what makes Muslims laugh.
The Dubai International Film Festival will honor several people for distinguished service to the film industry: Morgan Freeman, Adel Imam, the Egyptian "king of comedy," and Indian producer-director Yash Chopra, known as a godfather of Indian film.
For more information, please visit the festival's website.