Hearts will be broken, guns will be fired and a lot of popcorn will be eaten. Welcome to the sixth Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which the organisers are hoping will be the biggest yet. With new festival director Ali Al Jabri calling the shots and 81 feature films and documentaries being screened to the public between October 11-21, this year’s selection is an eclectic mix of old and new, with 45 nations contributing flicks to the festival, including movies from Algeria, Bulgaria, India, South Korea and of course, the UAE.
‘We have a formula which enables us to have different films every year,’ says Al Jabri. ‘We are taking more steps forward every year and the festival has positioned itself worldwide. We are working to make it bigger and it is an honour for the city. The public interest shows the importance of the festival.’
So what will the public be interested in this year? There’s a red carpet appearance on the opening day from Richard Gere, star of Arbitrage. There’s the awards ceremonies for the Shorts and Feature films at Emirates Palace on October 18 and 19.
The growth in South Korean cinema is also celebrated, with screenings of Park Chan-wook’s Joint SecurityArea (you’ll know him for his work directing Oldboy and the Lady Vengeance movies) and the dark fantasy tale A WerewolfBoy from Jo Sung-hee.
Fans of American cinema are also well catered for. Director Sarah Polley has come a long way since starring in movies such as Go and Dawn Of The Dead, and her documentary Stories We Tell (a film about her own family) sits alongside financial drama Arbitrage and Robert Redford and Shia LeBeouf in political thriller The Company You Keep, plus Jake Gyllenhaal in End Of Watch, a tale of two cops which has won rave reviews in the US. The latter two are entered into the Showcase category, where the winner walks away with Dhs180,000 to be shared between the producer and the world sales agent or local distributor. They’re up against Canadian documentary American Empire, which premieres at the festival and looks at the collapse of the American Dream, and British director Nike Newell’s Great Expectations, starring Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter. Also showing is documentary Room 237, about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
There’s a couple of lifetime achievement awards; one to Arab star Sawsan Badr, star of 1999’s Closed Doors, a controversial look at Egyptian society during the Gulf War and another to Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, who starred in The Pink Panther in 1963 and Sergio Leone’s epic Once Upon a Time in the West in 1968. The festival will also be marking 50 years of Algerian Independence with a selection of films in association with the Algerian Agency for Cultural Outreach, including the 1975 classic Chronicle Of The Year Of Embers, about the Algerian Revolution (a Palme d’Or winner at Cannes in 1975) and 2012’s The Island.
The films will be shown in Vox at Marina Mall and the festival is returning to Emirates Palace after a year at the Fairmont. Vox will host the Family Day on October 13 and the festival is also showing several classics which have been restored thanks to the magic of modern digital technology. Singin’ In The Rain, Lawrence Of Arabia and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea will show a new generation that great acting and storytelling beat modern day CGI hands down every time.
But it’s in the Emirates Film Competition that new talent gets its moment in the limelight. There are four awards up for grabs: the Short Narrative Competition, the Short Documentary Competition, the Student Short Narrative Competition and the Student Short Documentary Competition. Almost all the entrants in these competitions are from the UAE and this celebration of local filmmaking is something that Al Jabri is particularly excited about. ‘We are seeing the emergence of a new generation of film makers,’ he adds. ‘Young Arabs that are embracing technology and telling their stories in new, innovative ways. We are seeing more people also getting involved behind the camera and we hope the festival encourages more people to get involved.’
More than 1,600 movie makers from 23 countries submitted films to another category at the ADFF; the Short Film Competition. Four world premieres will be shown, with 28 films all fighting it out for gongs including Best Narrative and Best Animation.
So there’s plenty for the good folk of Abu Dhabi to get their teeth into. ‘This year looks like being one of the best yet,’ says Al Jabri. ‘We have received literally hundreds of submissions from all over the world and demand to participate is high amongst filmmakers and industry guests. We have a fantastic opening night in Arbitrage and we are all very excited. The festival is in great shape.’ The Abu Dhabi Film Festival, October 11-21 at Vox Marina Mall and Emirates Palace. For tickets and info visit www.adff.ae.
Where can I buy them? You can get your tickets from the Marina Mall box office, which is open now, and the Emirates Palace Box Office from October 11. Opening hours are noon until 30 minutes after the last scheduled screening start time.
How much are tickets? Single screenings Dhs30, students pay Dhs20.
Can I get a Festival pass? Dhs400 for access to all screenings (one ticket per screening). Ten-voucher package: Dhs250. These must be purchased at the ticket office.
What if the film I want to see is sold out? Additional tickets will be made available at www.adff.ae at midnight on the day of the screening.
Are there any classes, panel discussions or workshops? Yes and they’re free. Check out www.adff.ae for details.