Nabil Maleh a native of Damascus has made many pioneering contributions to the history of Syrian filmmaking. He was the first Syrian director to learn his craft abroad, in Prague. He returned to Damascus in 1964, soon after the establishment of the General Organization for Cinema (now the National Film Organization) as the country’s sole feature film production entity, Ahlaam (Dreams) and Rajolan wa Imra’ (Two men and a Woman). He then began working with the General Organization on documentary and narrative shorts, as well as Syria’s first experimental films, such as the internationally acclaimed Naplam (1970), a 90-second reaction to the horror in Palestine and Vietnam, and Sakhr (Rocks, 1970), about horrendous conditions for quarry workers. His commitment to the Palestinian cause was further demonstrated in 1970, when he directed one part of the trilogy Rijal Tahta al-Shams (Men Under the Sun) and when audiences associated the historical rebel hero of Al Fahd (The Leopard, 1972) with contemporary Palestinian fighters.
He made two more features for the General Organization in the 1970s, but in 1981, he went to America to teach film in Texas and California, then settled in Geneva, before moving to Greece, where he would pass the next ten years and write the screenplay for his most popular film, Al Compars (The Extras, 1993), which DIFF is screening alongside (The Leopard).
Now based again in Damascus, he has recently worked exclusively with private, mostly European producers, completing the first British-Syrian co-production, the narrative feature The Hunt Feast (2004), and is developing a number of projects. We are proud and delighted that Nabil Maleh will be attending DIFF to present The Leopard and The Extras and answer audience questions.
Who would have believed that an MA in Mass Communication would prove to be perfect preparation for the man who would redefine star power in Bollywood by becoming the brightest and most influential figure in the Indian film constellation? From a television debut as Abhimanyu in Fajui (1988) to debut feature film Deewana (1992), to the first success in Darr (1995), in which he exploded on the screen, Sharhrukh Khan became the “must-have” actor required by producers to ensure the success of their films.
An actor with enormous influence, he believes cinema can be a powerful vehicle for social change, even in easing the decade old stand-off between India and Pakistan. However, he also believes that film should provide unadulterated enjoyment and fun to audiences the world over. He has had particular success as the romantic lead in love stories, and is renowned for his uncanny ability to develop palpable “chemistry” with his heroines, such as Preity Zinta and Aishwarya Rai. He branched out and assumed two very different personas in Swades and Paheli, neither of which were hits, although both are fine films.
Widely known simply as SRK, he has been particularly successful in his work with Yash Chopra of YashRaj Films, and Karan and Yash Johar of Dharma Productions. He owns two production companies, Dreamz Unlimited and Red Chillies Entertainment, through which he has produced hits such as Chalte Chalte (screening in this DIFF tribute along with Main Hoon Na), and the Oscar-nominated Paheli. A winner of six Filmfare awards for Best Actor, lead actor in two Oscar-nominated films (Devdas and Paheli), winner of the Rajiv Gandhi Award for Excellence in entertainment in 2002 and the Padma Shri Award in 2005 – SRK has poured his heart into his life and his work. He has been a gift to us all and we welcome him to DIFF.
Writer-director Oliver Stone, along with Clint Eastwood, is one of the few genuine mavericks working in Hollywood: both make films that are reflections on male psychologies and violence and both have had their share of controversy, but the nature of Stone’s pictures has ensured that his work has been the the subject of greater and more consistent debate than Eastwood’s. While his films are viewed by some as unsubtle or uncompromisingly direct, no-one can deny that he is one of the few directors who has managed not simply to survive in Hollywood but, for more than 20 years, to make films with a consistent personal vision.
After dropping out of Yale University, Stone taught in Vietnam, became a merchant seaman and then volunteered for the Vietnam war (where he won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart). He then studied film at New York University and began his professional career by writing and directing Seizure (1974). It was his second film as a screenwriter, Midnight Express (1978), for which he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, that signposted the career to follow, with screenplays that include Scarface (1983) and Year of the Dragon (1985). Then, in 1986, came two very personal projects, which he wrote and directed, Salvador (screening as part of this DIFF tribute) and Platoon, the former a searing commentary on US involvement in the civil war in El Salvador, the latter prompted by his experiences in Vietnam. His later films as both writer and director included Wall Street (1987), Born on the 4th of July (1989), JFK (1991), Natural Born Killers (1994), Nixon (1995) and Alexander (2004), and he won Academy Awards for Best Director for Born on the 4th of July and Platoon; the latter also won Best Picture. It is easy to dismiss Stone’s films as violent and male orientated – which, it must be admitted, they are – but that would be to miss the implicit humanity that creates powerful popular dramas from difficult subject matter: the Vietnam War, US involvement in Central America, national politics, media exploitation (Natural Born Killers), and now, World Trade Center (2006), the dramatized true story of two policemen rescued from the rubble of 9/11. We are delighted that Oliver Stone will be attending DIFF to present World Trade Center and answer audience questions.