Beyond the star studded gala dinners and red carpet glitz, Dubai International Film Festival is a very public celebration of cinema. Each year, the festival showcases a host of groundbreaking films from Hollywood to Bollywood, Arab cinema and beyond. Taking place this year from 6 to 14 December, the 10th edition of the festival promises to be a cinematic feast, and it’s a chance for regular movie-goers to discover some real gems that might have otherwise gone under the radar.
It’s also a chance to break out of your comfort zone and check out cinema from a diverse array of cultures. Seats at the gala screenings may be limited, but there are 174 features, shorts and documentaries from 57 countries being shown this year across various venues. In celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary, the focus this year is on Arab cinema, with more than 100 films from the Arab world being shown. There will also be a series of free, open-air screenings at Burj Park – even more reason to get involved. Here’s our guide to getting the best out of the festival.
HIGHLIGHTS OFF THE RED CARPET
VOX Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates is hosting many films this DIFF. Check the website for full listings.
Half Of A Yellow Sun
This adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beautiful Orange Prize winning novel tells the harrowing story of two sisters caught up in the Nigerian civil war of the 1960s. The film stars Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose.
Wednesday 11 December, 9.45pm, MOE 2 and Friday 13 December, 2pm, MOE 5
Champ of the Camp
Burj Park hosts the world premiere of this highly-anticipated film that turns the spotlight on to Dubai’s labour camps. Directed by Mahmoud Kaabour, this feature-length documentary tells the personal stories of several contestants in a massive Bollywood singing competition.
Saturday 7 December, 7.30pm, Burj Park and Monday 9 December, 3.15pm, MOE 12
A love story from war-torn Palestine, this film is also opening the festival with a gala screening, and is set to become an Arab cinema classic.
Wednesday 11 December, 3pm, MOE 2
Rock the Casbah
A tale of relationships among a family in Tangiers, this film has a powerhouse Arab cast, including Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki.
Thursday 12 December, 8.30pm, MOE 5
Of Good Report
A controversial South African thriller that explores the dark side of a rural township.
Thursday 12 December, 6pm, MOE 1 and Friday 13 December, 5.15pm, MOE 5
SCREEN ON THE GREEN
For the first time, DIFF presents a series of free screenings at Burj Park, Downtown Dubai. Amr Diab performs live on 6 December, followed by the premiere of Champ of the Camp on 7 December. Further screenings are:
Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon by Hong Kong’s Tsui Hark.
Sunday 8 December, 8pm
Home Land by Mohamed Hamidi
Monday 9 December, 8pm
A Story of Children and Film by British director Mark Cousins.
Tuesday 10 December, 8pm
Red Blue Yellow by pioneering female Emirati artist, Nujoom Ghanem.
Wednesday 11 December, 8pm
Underground on the Surface by Salma El Tarzi
Thursday 12 December, 8pm
Tim’s Vermeer by Penn & Teller
Friday 13 December, 8pm
The Mummy: The Night of Counting the Years by Chadi Abdel Salam. The Screen on the Green season closer was named top of DIFF’s 100 greatest Arab films list.
Saturday 14 December, 8pm
If you’re lucky enough to get tickets, there are plenty of opportunities to walk the red carpet with a line up of big-name movies showing at Souk Madinat, many of which are generating Oscar buzz. These include 12 Years a Slave starring Brad Pitt, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starring Idris Elba as the iconic South African leader, Saving Mr Banks starring Tom Hanks and Out of the Furnace starring Christian Bale. Closing the festival is the hotly anticipated American Hustle, which is getting its first festival showing in Dubai to coincide with the film’s world premiere in the US. A host of stars are heading to Dubai for the events surrounding the festival, including Martin Sheen, who is being presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Cate Blanchett, who returns to head up the jury, Mark Ruffalo, Zac Efron, Abigail Breslin, Irfann Khan, Rooney Mara and Andy Serkis.
The box office opens on 28 November. Head to dubaifilmfest.com to book tickets.