Our pick of the best of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2011
Time Out Abu Dhabi staff
Bullets will be sprayed, cars overturned, lovers' eyes locked, mysteries unravelled, goals scored and demons slain all on screen this week and next at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Now in its fifth year, the 10-day extravaganza is back with a vengeance, showcasing everything from local documentaries to Hollywood blockbusters. We've been poring over the schedule – it's a particularly exciting line-up this year – and have highlighted some of the most interesting and signifi cant films to be screened. So clear your diaries people, there are a lot of unmissable movies to be seen.
How to get there: A free festival shuttle service will run between all three locations and the InterContinental hotel, every 15 minutes between 8am-2am
Buy tickets: Dhs25 for single screenings (Dhs15 for students). Dhs350 for a festival pass. You can buy these at box offices at the Fairmont Bab al Bahr, Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi Theatre, or online at www.adff.ae
Full schedule: Visit the film festival’s website, www.adff.ae, for the full list of films on show.
Showcase Contagion Director: Steven Soderbergh
Contagion is a terrifying and realistic depiction of a government’s response to a lethal and unknown pandemic. From London to Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi, the film follows the outbreak of a rampaging airborne virus that kills within days. An all-star ensemble with Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne lead us through the frantic helplessness and intensity of the plight, in a story of fear, panic and xenophobia.
Showcase The Ides of March Director: George Clooney
An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics while working on the elections campaign. George Clooney’s latest stint in the director’s seat is at once a criticism of American party politics and a universal analysis of the age-old concept that power corrupts. The Ides of March features an all-star cast including Clooney himself, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright and Ryan Gosling.
New Horizons TrollHunter Director: André Øvredal
Shot in the vérité style (think Blair Witch Project) TrollHunter is the story of a group of Norwegian film students that set out into the wintry Norwegian countryside in search of an endangered species unlike any they’ve ever seen – trolls! The students are convinced trolls have been around for years, but that their existence has been covered up by the government; and as their investigative documentary on bear poaching takes a different turn, they find out that their escort, hard hunter Hans, is on the lookout for the same prey. Thrilling, wildly entertaining, and loaded with sensational special effects.
Narrative Feature Competition Trishna Director: Michael Winterbottom
Trishna is British auteur Michael Winterbottom’s unique spin on Thomas Hardy’s Victorian melodrama Tess of the D’Urbervilles. It is the tale of titular Trishna, a young rural Indian woman whose naivety sees her through a glorious rise and tragic downfall in the beautiful yet blighted modern day India. Trishna (Freida Pinto) lives with her father, and the story tells how she and Jay, the son of a wealthy London businessman, fall in love. As the romance develops, their relationship becomes increasingly difficult, and their bond is put to the ultimate test: can it withstand the pressures of rural society as it clashes with modern life?
Narrative Feature Competition We Need to Talk About Kevin Director: Lynne Ramsay
What happens when a smart career women gives birth to an
unlovable, cruel and manipulative boy? Eva (Tilda Swinton) never wanted to be a mother, and certainly not the mother of a resentful, manipulative and indignant sociopath who spends his time developing strategies of resistance and resentment. Is it her fault that he went on a high-school killing spree? Has Eva’s own lack of affection made her son a murderer? Beautifully adapted by Lynne Ramsay from Lionel Shriver’s international bestseller.
Narrative Feature Competition Rampart Director: Oren Moverman
The last of the rotten cops, LAPD officer Dave Brown (Harrelson) is caught getting his hands dirty and finds himself the headliner in a massive scandal, in this incredible tale of a bad cop realising it’s too late to change for the better. The film is a bracing look at the crisis within the infamous Rampart division, and as the new poster boy for police corruption is targeted by cop killers looking for revenge, he descends into the LA underworld to exact justice. Supported by a phenomenal cast that includes Ben Foster, Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver and Robin Wright, charismatic renegade Woody Harrelson sets the silver screen on fire.
New Horizons Sea Shadow (Emirati) Director: Nawaf Al-Janahi
Sea Shadow is a coming of age story set in a small seaside town in Ras Al Khaimah, where local traditions make it difficult to express emotions openly. It follows the story of 16-year-olds Mansour and Kaltham, two teens on a journey of self-discovery that has them struggling with traditions and conventions on the road to adulthood. Despite being bound by family and values, the pair need to find the courage to forge their own paths. Directed by acclaimed Emirati director Nawaf Al-Janahi and written by Mohamed Hassan Ahmad.
Documentaries Beijing Besieged by Waste Director: Wang Jiuliang
Not for the faint of heart; Beijing Besieged by Waste sees director Wang Jiuliang turn his camera upon the dark, disgusting spectacle of garbage, waste, refuse and wreckage that has taken the Chinese capital hostage. And in that garbage? Scavengers, carving out a dangerous and painful living, and struggling to maintain a semblance of familiar structures in these incredibly bleak surroundings.
Documentaries El Gusto Director: Safinez Bousbia
Fifty years after being separated by the Algerian War, a group of Muslim and Jewish musicians get back together for an incredible reunion concert. Traditional Chaabi melodies, beautiful Algiers sights and warm friendships take us through this documentary in a celebration of co-existence and dialogue. If anything can transcend boundaries, music can.
Documentaries Girl Model Director: Ashley Sabin
Girl model is the story of two women: Ashley, an American former model, makes a living travelling to remote Siberian villages to scout young teenage girls for fashion shoots in Japan, and Nadya, a 13-year-old blonde who catches the American scout’s eye. The documentary takes us into the rarely seen (and rather dark) backrooms of the modelling industry, as the new model tries to grapple with the harsh realities that the fashion industry imposes. You’ll never look at a model the same way again.
Our World Eco Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson Director: Trish Dolman
Haven’t you heard of Paul Watson? What kind of environmental rock have you been living under? Watson is the boogie man of Mother Nature, the man who started Green Peace, then left them when he felt they’d gone soft, the man who founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The 60-year-old Canadian animal rights and environmental activist doesn’t send letters, make angry phone calls or even ask people nicely, he sails around the ocean in a black titanium pirate ship waiting to ram whaling vessels. This is not his first time on screen – he already has his own cable TV show, Whale Wars.
Showcase The Double Director: Michael Brandt
Legendary soviet assassin Cassius has murdered a US senator – or has he? The murder may have bore the killer’s trademark, but when retired CIA operative Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) digs deeper, things are not quite what they seem. Shepherdson is convinced his former arch-nemesis is long dead, but is pushed to take on the case by his former supervisor, Tom Highland (Martin Sheen), and team up with rookie FBI agent, Ben Geary (Topher Grace), to solve the mystery behind the crime. Agent Geary, on the other hand – who wrote his Master’s thesis on Shepherdson’s pursuit of the Soviet killer – is certain that Cassius has resurfaced, and as the odd couple work their way through the crime, as well as some older crimes, they discover that Cassius may not be the man they always thought him to be, forcing both to re-examine everything
Showcase Cave of Forgotten Dreams Director: Werner Herzog
Herzog has gained exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting. With the use of amazing 3D technology, the 32,000-year-old drawings are brought to life, as interviews with historians and scientists provide an insight into the lives of the people who created these murals.
Showcase God Save my Shoes Director: Julie Benasra
As if fashion-lovers needed another excuse to wear their treasured Louboutins, God Save my Shoes is a lighthearted look at the love affair between women and their high heels. God Save my Shoes went from New York to Los Angeles, Paris, Milan, Toronto and Florence to interview extreme shoe collectors – from everyday women to celebrities, fashion historians, and all those who play a role in the ubiquitous shoe phenomenon.
Showcase George Harrison: Living in the Material World Director: Martin Scorsese
Scorcese’s three-and-a-half-hour opus on the life of Beatle George Harrison is more than just a rock-doc. While it was co-produced by Harrison’s widow, Olivia, the documentary paints a conflicting picture of Harrison, overly fond and emotional on one hand, but troubled on the other. In the contributors’ words, he was ‘a red-blooded man’ (McCartney) prone to ‘anger’ (Starr) with ‘no filter’ (Ono) and ‘a very extreme personality [that led him] very heavily into drugs’ (Voormann). With an incredible cache of never-before-seen footage and unreleased songs, Living in the Material World is an absorbing journey through the extraordinary life of George Harrison.
Short Films Flower Seller Director: Ihab Jadallah
A seemingly innocent flower seller struggles to earn a living by providing wreaths for the funerals of martyrs in a Palestinian refugee camp. Yet no one really cares for flowers in a place with so little cause for celebration, and protagonist Abu El Ward is finally confronted with his destiny when he falls prey to the Israeli Secret Service in this thought-provoking thriller about treason and destiny.
Emirati Competition Al Seefah Director: Mohammed Ghanim Al Marri
Meaning ‘the beach’ in Arabic, Al Seefah explores the effect of new fishing laws on this age-old trade, as local fishermen struggle to preserve their ancestors’ way of life. This film portrays an old fisherman who reminisces about the days when it was possible for anyone to put their nets in the sea without paying fines.
Special Programmes: She Monkeys Director: Lisa Aschan
Even though Emma is the new girl on the gymnastics team, it’s clear she’s just as competitive and strong as Cassandra, the team’s unspoken leader. It doesn’t take long until a mixture of competitiveness and attraction brings the two together, and, for the rest of the film, we’re never sure if they’ll come together as lovers or break apart as hated rivals. She Monkeys is a strong feature debut centered around powerful women, and the shifts of power between them as the story progresses.
Special Programmes A trip to the moon in colour Director: Georges Méliès
In May 1902, Georges Méliès shot the film A Trip to the Moon. It was released in black and white, and also in colour, hand painted. After one of these previously presumed lost colour prints was rediscovered, one of cinema history’s most ambitious restoration projects was started. It took a colossal amount of work, but the world’s first science-fiction film can now be watched at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in all its original glory.