Film Festival Today

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Spotlight On Abu Dhabi

Written by: FFT Webmaster | September 28th, 2011

The recent phenomenon of film festivals emerging from the heart of the Middle East is one to celebrate. Not only do they provide a window into the culture of the region but they also encourage an outward glance and an international perspective that can have practical and philosophical impact. As the region goes through its own dramatic changes, the adventurous film festivals that have emerged in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi will hopefully reflect a more open and inclusive world view. That is certainly one of the goals of the upcoming Abu Dhabi Film Festival (October 13 – 22), which in its fifth year will screen more than 200 feature and short films by established and emerging filmmakers representing 43 countries. Five of the features were co-produced with SANAD, the Festival’s fund that provides development and post-production support for films from the Arab world. Festivities begin on October 13 with the premiere of the critically acclaimed film MONSIEUR LAZHAR, a Quebec drama about an Algerian immigrant who adjusts to his new life in Montreal, directed by Philippe Falardeau which has just been selected to represent Canada in the Best Foreign Language Oscar race.

World premieres also distinguish a film festival event and this year, there are 8 films making their first bows in Abu Dhabi, including ABSOLUTELY TAME AS A HORSE (Abdolreza Kahani (Iran), ALMOST IN LOVE (Sam Neave, USA), ASMA’A (Amr Salama, Egypt), THE DOUBLE (Michael Brandt,, USA/ United Arab Emirates), EL GUSTO (Safinez Bousbia, Algeria/Ireland/ France/UAE), SEA SHADOW (Nawaf Al-Janahi, United Arab Emirates), SKEEM (Timothy Greene, South Africa), and WILAYA (Pedro P. Rosado, Spain). The Festival will also present the international premieres (first screenings outside their home country) of six films, including ALMS FOR A BLIND HORSE (Gurvinder Singh,India), BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (Liz Garbus, USA/ UK/Iceland), THE END (Hicham Lasri, Morocco), FIGHTVILLE ( Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, USA), GIRL MODEL (Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, USA), and THIS NARROW PLACE (Sooney Kadouh, Lebanon/USA/Egypt).

The Festival has four competitions for features that offer cash awards totaling $1 million USD; The Narrative, New Horizons and Documentary Competitions and the renamed environmental program, Our World Competition. The Festival also includes Showcase, an international selection of outstanding films eligible for the $30,000 Audience Award. The Festival’s short film programs include the Emirates Film Competition, films from the UAE and the Gulf Cooperative Council countries, featuring work from established directors and talented new discoveries and the Short Film Competition, an international selection of narrative and documentary films. Two special tribute programs to Nobel Prize winners for literature will be presented: Naguib Mahfouz, Man Of Cinema about the Egyptian writer and philosopher; and Remembering Rabindranath Tagore. In addition, the Festival will screen several films from the series “Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema” presented in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art and ArteEast. Lastly, the contemporary cinema of Sweden will be given a special festival spotlight, with nine films from that country’s industry highlighting the diversity and energy of the country’s contemporary filmmaking. , presented in collaboration with the Swedish Institute and the Embassy of Sweden in Abu Dhabi.

The Festival’s Executive Director Peter Scarlet, who was previously at the helm of the San Francisco and Tribeca film festivals, brings his international flavor to the event, highlighting the newest films from some of cinema’s most respected auteurs including Andrey Zvyagintsev (Russia), David Cronenberg (Canada), Nanni Moretti (Italy), Michael Winterbottom (UK), Ashgar Farhadi (Iran), Arturo Ripstein (Mexico), Hirokazu Kore-Edafrom (Japan), Wim Wenders (Germany) and Chen Kaige (China). From the United States, the Festival will offer the regional premieres of the newest films from such heavyweights as Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog and George Clooney. “We travel the world all year, we explore, we are detectives, we try to find the most wonderful work made everywhere, and we bring it back to Abu Dhabi to help to open windows to what’s happening in the rest of the world for the people here”, Scarlet declared in a prepared statement. “One of the first reasons people come to festivals is to find out what some of the great filmmakers been doing lately. We are happy to present an especially strong line-up this year”, he concluded.  For a complete list of films and events, visit

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