DIFF Daily 2011

Variety: Dubai Intl. Film Festival: Star-powered event

Dec 07,2011 - 12:16 AM

BY ALISSA SIMON

Heading into an eighth edition, the Dubai Intl. Film Festival remains the grande dame of the Gulf’s film festivals, holding its own against younger brethren such as Abu Dhabi and Doha by continuing its pioneering mandate to develop the local and regional industry while bringing a dazzling array of world cinema -- and celebrities -- to the hometown crowds.

This year's event kicks off on Dec. 7 (today) with the world premiere of "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" with star Tom Cruise and helmer Brad Bird on the red carpet. The pic filmed extensively in Dubai and includes thrilling shots of Cruise scaling the tower of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.

Other big names slated to attend include German helmer Werner Herzog with his latest doc, "Into the Abyss," Oz helmer Peter Weir, who heads the Arab feature competition jury, musician Neil Young and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Among the Hollywood titles are Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" and Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" with the helmer and star Shailene Woodley slated for the red carpet.

"My Week With Marilyn" from UK helmer Simon Curtis also receives red carpet treatment.

Dubai continues to expand its support of Arab filmmaking through initiatives that provide training and grants in aid of every stage of the production process. New this year is an award of €5,000 ($6,754) for a Dubai Film Connection project from one of the Arab world's Francophone countries sponsored by L'Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

Eight of the features and documentaries slotted for the Arab competition received finishing coin from Enjaaz, Dubai's post-production arm. Among the buzz docu titles are Laith Al-Juneidi's Hebron-set "Invisible Policeman," which world preemed at the Intl. Documentary Festival Amsterdam; Algerian Abdenour Zahzah's concert docu "Andalucia"; Lebanese Simon El-Habre's portrait of four Beirut truck drivers,"Gate # 5"; and Jordanian Aseel Mansour's biopic "Uncle Nashaat."

Eleven pics vie for Arab feature, including Moroccan titles "The Rif Lover" from Narjiss Nejjar, Abdelhai Laraki's "Love in the Medina" and Hakim Belabbes' "Boiling Dreams." Lebanon also fields three competitors: Danielle Arbid's "Beirut Hotel," Daniel Joseph's "Taxi Ballad" and Youcef Joe Bou Eid's "Heels of War." The latter two are co-productions with the UAE.

Rounding out the competition are Susan Youssef's Palestinian production "Habibi," Iraq-born France-based Hiner Saleem's "If You Die, I Will Kill You," Egyptian title "The Whole One" from Hady Elbagoory and from Jordan, "The Last Friday" and "A 7 Hour Difference."

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