Adel Imam is a true acting phenomenon. He has been king of the comedy scene in Egyptian cinema for more than 30 years. He is hugely popular in the Arab world and beyond. Born in 1940, to a modest family in one of Cairo’s populous districts, Adel socialised with all sorts of characters in his neighborhood and picked up the sarcastic sense of humour with which the poor bravely faced their daily plight. Shortly after graduating as an agricultural engineer, he drew attention for his performance in a minor role in a comic play, Me, You and Her. Adel made it to stardom in a hugely successful stage comedy, School of the Bad Boys, then moved to cinema, starring in I Have the Wallet (1978) and Rajab on a Hot Tin Roof (1979). In these films he radically changed the prevailing stereotype of the Egyptian starring role, from elegant, well-to-do young man, to regular guy in modest clothes, irreverently humorous in his quest for good, justice and dignity. Adel smartly listened to the pulse of the people in the street, reading between the lines and examining more and more closely the plight and dreams of the poor. Adel says: “I always bet on people and always win the wager, because I am one of those poor people and can never part with them.” He dedicated his talents to challenge the terrorists trying to take over Egypt, starring in several hits that addressed this subject head-on, including Terrorism and Kebab, The Birds of Darkness and The Terrorist. In the 1990s, he went to the city of Asyut in the lower Nile region, following a terror attack against tourists visiting the city’s archaeological treasures, and presented a comedy to turn fears and tears into confidence and smiles. He has fought injustice and corruption in 119 movies and five plays that have attracted huge crowds. The UN High Commission for Refugees recognized his example as a conscious and educated artist, by appointing Adel as a Goodwill Ambassador. He has won numerous awards, and DIFF is proud to add to his long list of tributes by presenting Terrorism and Kebab and his latest movie, The Embassy Is in the Building.
“I don’t make films with a calculator; I make films that I believe in. I can’t guarantee the success of the film; that is in the hands of God. I just try and make a good film and an honest film from my heart”. Yash Chopra Yash Raj films was formed in 1970 by Yash Chopra, a man responsible for 30 films, many of them box-office giants, and a man equally adept as director, producer or businessman. A five-time winner of India’s National Award, his remarkably diverse achievements include the establishment of Yash Raj Films distribution, Yash Raj Films USA, Yash Raj Films UAE and Yash Raj Music. Just two months ago, Yash Raj Film Studios opened in Mumbai. As a director, he has been called a “colossus who straddles two worlds”: the land of the angry young man, expressed so ably through the alter egos played by Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar (The Wall), Trishul (Trident) and Kakalla Pather (Coal), and the universe of the human heart. Yash Chopra lays claim, like no other director, to grand, sweeping love stories, always embellished with stirring music, snow-capped mountains, lakes, rivers and fields of flowers. The lovers in Kabhi Kabhi (Sometimes), Silsila (The Affair), Lamhe (Moments), Daar (Fear) and Veer-Zaara are often doomed, but invariably passionate, and universal. His films fill the heart with joy and wound us with lovers’ sorrows. DIFF is proud to present special screenings of Lamhe, perhaps the film closest to Yash Chopra’s heart, and clearly one of the most controversial subjects he has tackled, and Veer-Zaara, a story of unconditional love and sacrifice. And yet in Veer-Zaara, love survives and emerges as the victorious thread that connects us all. Perhaps this is the heart of Yash Chopra and his work.
The Oscar that he received earlier this year as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Clint Eastwood’s multi-award-winning Million Dollar Baby merely confirmed Morgan Freeman’s place in the very top rank of American performers. After all, the American Academy had already nominated him twice for Best Actor: as the resourceful Red in Frank Darabont’s moving prison drama, The Shawshank Redemption, and for his portrayal of Jessica Tandy’s courtly chauffeur in Bruce Beresford’s Driving Miss Daisy. The latter film was released just a year after his breakthrough as the unforgettable vicious pimp, Fast Black, in Jerry Schatzberg’s taut thriller Street Smart (1987), for which he won his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination. At that point, Morgan Freeman, born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1937, was hardly a newcomer, having acted in theater, appeared in a long-running children’s television series, The Electric Company, and taken small film roles, before Brubaker (1980) and Teachers (1984) brought him wider attention. Among his other outstanding appearances, one should cite Edward Zwick’s American Civil War Drama, Glory (1989), Clint Eastwood’s beautifully crafted Western, Unforgiven (1992), and David Fincher’s grisly thriller, Seven (1995). Freeman has also directed one powerful feature, Bopha! (1993), which screened at DIFF last year and stars Danny, Glover as a South African cop during the apartheid era. He has also provided mellifluous narration for dozen of films and television shows, the most recent of which was his voiceover for The March of the Penguins, the English-language version of the French documentary, La Marche de l’empereur. It can surely be no accident that with Morgan Freeman’s soothing voice on the soundtrack, The March of the Penguins has become the highest-grossing French film ever shown in the US. How ironic that Morgan Freeman is one of the few American actors who speak fluent French! The Dubai International Film Festival is proud to welcome this uniquely versatile actor as its first Hollywood “In the Spotlight” honoree.