That’s not the only thing that has swelled in size for this 170-film landmark edition – for the first time the festival will host two gala screenings on most days, meaning there are twice as many reasons to get dolled up and walk down the Madinat’s red carpet. Speaking of the red carpet, this year’s line-up is bursting at the seams with visiting talent: Martin Sheen, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Abigail Breslin and Irfann Khan are among those confirmed to attend.
Other additions for this anniversary festival include a new programme of free outdoor screenings hosted nightly at Burj Park, and the first Cinematic Innovations Summit, which will see 200 leading industry types, including Pixar co-founder Alvy Ray Smith and Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis, talk about the future of the medium at Atlantis The Palm, December 5-6.
The core of the festival is still the movies – of which there are a whopping 174 features, shorts and documentaries, drawn from 57 countries and in 43 languages, cherry picked from more than 3,500 submissions. That’s 60 percent more than last year.
Among them are Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts drama August: Osage County, Labor Day starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, acclaimed biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and a closing night world premiere of David O’Russell’s American Hustle, starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper.
Notably, there are more Arabic films than ever, with just over 100 in total – including the symbolic opening night screening of Palestinian hit Omar, which first premiered at Cannes in May. ‘We decided to go back to our roots and celebrate Arabic cinema,’ explains DIFF Chairman Abdulhamid Juma. ‘We wanted to send a message – this is Dubai, not France or America.’ The message seems to have got through loud and clear; for the first time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be sending a delegation to review potential Oscar nominees.
Other dates for the diary include a commemorative gig from Arab superstar Amr Diab at Burj Park on December 6, the Dhs367,000 IWC Filmmaker Award on December 7, with Blanchett heading the jury for a second year running, and the star-studded Dubai Cares and Oxfam gala dinner on December 11, with Rooney Mara, Mark Ruffallo and Zac Efron expected to be on the guestlist. Oh, and if you’ve missed any of the previous festivals DIFF are celebrating the anniversary by making every film previously screened available on iTunes.