In its ninth year, the Dubai International Film Festival is showing its strength: well programmed and funded, it is able to attract some glitter onto the red carpet (Cate Blanchett and Freida Pinto, both jury members, walked it this year, Colin Firth and Kristin Davis dropped by for a charity gala). DIFF gives prominence to fine films from Africa and Asia as well as Europe — and of course, strongly programmes films from the Arab world, on which its Muhr competition focuses.
Thus the opening night film was ”Life of Pi” (Ang Lee did not attend but lead actor Suraj Sharma did) and gala screenings included Haneke's ”Love” (”Amour”) and the much anticipated Muhr competition film ”Wadjda”. The crowd pleasing indigenous Australian film ”The Sapphires” closed the Festival, with singer Jessica Mauboy, one of the stars wowing Festival guests at the after party.
For film lovers, highlights included Bertolucci's ”Me and You” (”Io e te”); Paul Thomas Anderson's ”The Master”; and from India, ”Ship of Theseus” by Anand Gandhi, a new voice in independent cinema, who, like Terrence Malick, studied philosophy.
DIFF screened a total of 158 films in 43 languages from 61 countries. Egyptian actor Mahmoud Abdel Aziz and British director Michael Apted received lifetime achievement awards. Michael Apted also chaired the jury which awarded the Muhr Award for Best Documentary to Khaled Kaissar's ”The Turtle's Rage” (”Schildkrötenwut”), while the Special Jury Prize went to the Palestinian film ”Infiltrators” (”Mutasalilun”) by director Khaled Jarrar.
The Muhr Award for Best Arab Feature went to ”Wadjda” directed by Haifaa Al Mansour. It's a feminist tale of a young girl's quest to own a bicycle shot inside the Saudi Kingdom where women have few rights and cinemas have been banned for decades. From Egypt, Nadine Khan's ”Chaos, Disorder”, a spirited tale of power, manipulation and corruption, won a special jury prize. It's a film which plays as a comedy, but one with a bitter undertaste. (Julie Rigg)
Dubai International Film Festival: www.dubaifilmfest.com