11 top movies at Dubai International Film Festival
Essential films and star guests at eight-day movie spectacular
Dubai International Film Festival’s profile has never been higher. Last year’s red-carpet appearance by superstar Tom Cruise was a cultural happening that caught the attention of more Dubaians than ever, and was watched closely by the rest of the world. This year’s festival serves up an impressive 161 films from 61 countries over eight days, including 52 world premieres (up from 46 last year), and will attract a host of visiting stars, including Oscar winners Cate Blanchett, Kevin Spacey and Colin Firth. Here we round up one essential screening from each day of the festival, all of which are Middle Eastern premieres. Get ready for a celluloid explosion. Films will be screened at: Vox Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates, Madinat Theatre, Madinat Jumeirah, Madinat Arena (open for DIFF only), Dubai Internet City, Dell Building 3.
Tickets: All regular tickets are Dhs30 (adults); Dhs10 (students). All gala screenings except for the opening night are open to the public: tickets are Dhs80 (adults); Dhs50 (students). The children’s gala is Dhs50. Buy tickets from www.dubaifilmfest.com or call 04 363 3456.
December 9 Life of Pi (USA) Director: Ang Lee Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning tale, following a young castaway who sails the seas with a Bengal tiger for company, moved audiences across the world with its simple yet fantastical prose. Opening the festival is a local premiere of director Ang Lee’s long-awaited film adaptation, with stars Suraj Sharma and Adil Hussain attending on the opening night. 8pm, Madinat Arena. Also screening Saturday December 15, 3.45pm, Vox Cinemas.
December 10 Radioman (UK) Director: Mary Kerr This short documentary is a portrait of Craig Schwartz, a former homeless New Yorker in his 60s whose habit of loafing about film sets has seen him make hundreds of fleeting on-screen appearances in movies from Godzilla to Remember Me. Schwartz has won the admiration of actors including George Clooney and Johnny Depp, who line up to sing his praises. 3.30pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates. Also screening Wednesday December 12, 9.30pm at the same venue.
December 11 Hitchcock (USA) Director: Sacha Gervasi British acting royalty Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren team up to play legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, writer Alma Reville, in director Sacha Gervasi’s behind-the-scenes look at their marriage during the making of Psycho. It tracks the couple’s complex relationship as the master’s new film (inspired by the Ed Gein murders) begins to take shape. Not that there isn’t time for a bit of something on the side: Scarlett Johansson stars as Janet Leigh, for whom Hitch developed a shine. 9pm, Madinat Arena. Also screening Sunday December 16, 6.30pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates.
December 12 My Brother the Devil (UK) Director: Sally El Hosaini In her impressive debut, Egyptian-Welsh filmmaker El Hosaini rifles through the coming-of-age film handbook. Brothers Rashid (James Floyd) and Mo (Fady Elsayed) have grown up on an East London council estate. Rashid sparkles with the invincible charisma of a ridiculously good-looking, bright young man. He should have the world at his feet; instead he’s wrapped up in crime and trying to keep Mo off the streets. 9.15pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates. Also screening Friday December 14, 6.15pm at the same venue.
December 13 Back to 1942 (China) Director: Feng Xiaogang Already being tipped to break box-office records in its home country, Aftershock director Feng Xiaogang’s latest epic also has a firm eye on the international market. Set in the midst of the 1942 Henan drought and subsequent humanitarian crisis that saw three million Chinese die, our protagonist is stoical Fan (Zhang Guoli) who, with his 16-year-old daughter, joins the millions of refugees while the threat of a Japanese invasion looms. Expect big-budget, widescreen bombast. 8pm, Madinat Arena.
December 14 Amour (France, Germany, Belgium) Director: Michael Haneke The director of modern masterpieces Hidden and The White Ribbon, Haneke’s latest offers an intimate, brave and devastating portrait of an elderly Parisian couple facing up to a sudden turn in their lives. The Austrian director presents the stark realities of sickness – problems of washing, mobility, going to the toilet – and explores the emotions and instincts felt by this couple: pride, despair, impending loss, empathy and its limits. The result has been described by critics as a masterpiece – see our interview with Haneke. 8pm, Madinat Arena. Also screening Sunday December 16, 3pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates
December 15 The Master (USA) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson Riffing on the early roots and allure of Scientology, The Master gives Anderson a chance to recreate the same compelling strangeness and heady intensity that he brought to Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. The movie rightfully attracted a huge buzz following its release in the USA and Europe, much of it focused on Joaquin Phoenix’s frenzied lead role. A tale of warped power and fanatical delusions – see our interview with Anderson here. 5.15pm, Madinat Theatre.
December 16 Rust and Bone (France, Belgium) Director: Jacques Audiard French filmmaker Audiard’s first movie since 2009’s A Prophet stalks the fringes and extremes of human experience. It’s an end-of-the-line story of a man and woman. She’s a strong spirit dampened by a terrible accident; he’s a homeless single father who scrapes a living from street fighting. They meet in adversity on the Cote d’Azur and develop an odd, fragile bond, offering Marion Cotillard the platform for a career-defining performance. 10.30pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates. Also screening Saturday December 15, 8.30pm, First Group Theatre.
Casablanca Mon Amour (Morocco) Dubai audiences will be the first in the world to see the debut feature from writer-director-producer John Slattery. This road movie references Hollywood classics such as Casablanca to offer a fresh perspective on the long, entwined relationship between Hollywood and the Arab world. Friday December 14, 9.30pm and Sunday December 16, 12.30pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates.
Half Emirati (UAE) In this ten-minute short from first-time director Amal Al-Agroobi, five UAE residents share experiences of what it’s like to be ‘half Emirati’ among those who are ‘pure’, and how they’re accepted by society. Part of Muhr Emirati #2 package. Wednesday December 12, 3.30pm and Saturday December 15, 9.15pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates.
Wadjda (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Germany) As the first feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, from the country’s first female director, Haifaa Al Mansour, Wadjda has created a stir worldwide. This moving tale of a 10-year-old girl who questions the restrictions of her culture has earned rave reviews. See our interview with Al Mansour in future issues. Wednesday December 12, 8pm, Madinat Arena; Saturday 15, 3.45pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates.