Dubai Mall’s The Picturehouse is screening a selected British film each week, chosen by the British Council to promote the country’s cultural heritage. The UK Film Season has so far showcased director Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy, followed by Never Let Me Go, starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan; last week, the late Pete Postlethwaite shined in Brassed Off. This week, StreetDance – the UK’s answer to Step Up – is the latest flick to join the line-up. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to suss out that there’s no unifying theme as far as plotlines go, so what’s this all about?
‘We’re looking to show the UK at historical tipping points,’ explains the British Council’s country director for the UAE, Richard Cotton. ‘Nowhere Boy shows the UK at a particular time in its history. Forthcoming film West is West, the sequel to 1999 hit comedy East is East, is a cultural look at a Pakistani family and how they’ve grown through generations in the UK. Then there’s StreetDance, an insight into contemporary hip-hop culture.’
Cotton explains that Dubai’s Brit film festival is by no means a one-off. He points out that similar events are taking place around the world, citing Beijing as an example. ‘Part of the British Council’s role is showcasing UK arts and culture, to try to create a better cultural understanding between the UK and UAE through the people in those countries,’ he explains. To support this aim, a short Arabic film will be shown before each screening, to give expats in the audience the chance to experience their country of residence through the eyes of Emirati filmmakers. During the film season, which runs until March 15, organisers are expecting to see a mix of both Emiratis and expatriates turning out for the films, each of which are aimed at adults and teens, and run for a week, with five screenings a day.
Though there aren’t yet any plans to take the film season to Abu Dhabi, Cotton insists it’s something that the council is more than willing to consider. Even if the turnout in Dubai is dismal, it won’t necessarily deter the organisers from staging a similar event in the capital. ‘I think we’re keen to work with partners in Abu Dhabi to take more British films there, and that’s doesn’t necessarily depend on the success of what we’re doing in Dubai,’ he explains.
There’s also the potential for the Dubai event to become a regular fixture on the local film calendar. ‘That will depend on the success of this one,’ adds Cotton. ‘But we’re certainly keen to make it annual.’
The UK Film Season continues at The Picturehouse, Reel Cinemas Dubai Mall until March 15.
Our top picks from the UK Film Season
Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Rachel McDowall, Patrick Baladi
The Brits enter the dance flick arena with this hopeful story set in London, following a team of street dancers forced to cooperate with an equally reluctant ballet troupe as they try to find a space to
rehearse. Exceptional choreography and a soundtrack performed by British acts including N-Dubz, Tinie Tempah and Chipmunk give this the UK-urban edge.
Runs February 10-15
Made in Dagenham (2010)
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Andrea Riseborough
Marking a turning point in the UK’s employment history, this dramatisation of the walk-out staged by female employees at a Ford Motor Company’s assembly plant in 1968 depicts events that helped to shape the UK’s Equal Pay Act of 1970. The movie boasts a stellar performance from Hawkins, who helms the film as the fictionalised leader of the strike.
Runs February 17-22
Topsy Turvy (1999)
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Dexter Fletcher
It’s 1884 and a successful theatre partnership between Arthur Sullivan and WS Gilbert is on the rocks after critics pan their latest production. What follows is a marvellous depiction of Victorian theatre and an up-close look at the pressures of each individual involved in famed play The Mikado.
Runs March 10-15