Alternative film screening in Dubai

Fancy a change of cinema scene? Try these refreshing alternatives


Dubai is well-served by multiplex cinemas, which screen a plethora of Hollywood and Bollywood releases to cater for mass audiences. But there’s always room for something different. Whether it’s catching a screening of a movie you haven’t seen in years, a foreign-language film or something from an independent filmmaker that may not ever reach the big screen, there are plenty of places in the city where you can enjoy an alternative movie experience. There’s also the added bonus that you may learn something, which is less likely to happen while watching the new Jason Statham caper.

There are several organisations, venues and individuals across the city working towards getting these alternative screenings up and running. The Picturehouse, at The Dubai Mall’s Reel Cinema, is the closest thing Dubai has to an arthouse cinema; this week it wraps up a UK film season with a run of Brit flick Made In Dagenham. The film – a dramatisation of a protest at the Ford car plant in the UK in the ’60s, which in part contributed to the country’s equal pay act – will be running for five days at The Picturehouse. It has not yet been confirmed what’s next on the schedule when the season comes to an end, but keep an eye on future issues of Time Out for an update.

For film buffs, the city also boasts a couple of film clubs. The Scene Club in Dubai Media City and Mahmovies! at thejamjar are currently on hold until funding for the next series has been secured, though the former is expected to start again in November.

In the meantime, there are two further setups that show two very different kinds of films throughout the year. For more mainstream tastes, Movies Under the Stars, which has been running since 2003, is perhaps a little more up your alley. Every Sunday at 8.30pm, the beanbags are set up across the Wafi rooftop area and a film is beamed onto the giant screen. Entry is free and, while you’ll have to pay for refreshments, the upside to catching a film here is that the outdoor venue is licensed.

‘The movies are chosen by the entire team at Wafi restaurants,’ says Rachel Matthews, assistant general manager of Wafi restaurants. ‘They’re picked from the past three decades so we can showcase classic cinematic moments.’ She estimates that as many as 200 people show up to catch a film each week and, despite some seasonal competitors such as hotels around town holding swimming pool screenings in the summer months, believes that the variety of films on show at Wafi helps put them ahead of the rest in terms of attendance. This week, it’s chick flick Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, while Sunday March 20 will see a showing of Fast & Furious, the fourth instalment in the franchise.

For something a little more unusual, the Goethe-Institut Language Centre in Al Raffa, launched about three years ago, shows German movies on the third Thursday of every month. Each film screening is free, with complementary soft drinks, water and a few sweets. The screenings are by no means just for German-speakers, as each film is accompanied by English subtitles.

According to a director at the institute, it was felt that there was a demand for European films in Dubai thanks to a lack of such screenings in big cinemas across town, which primarily show blockbusters from India and the US. At Goethe-Institut, there’s often an educational side to the screening, with discussions taking place following films that feature an interesting or topical theme. The last discussion event took place in October, with locally based psychologist Dr Raymond Hamden and German consul general Klaus Ranner leading a talk on the irrational fears surrounding terrorism. The next screening will be held on March 24, featuring 2005 Oscar-nominated film Sophie Scholl – The Final Days, about student resistance group The White Rose fighting against the Nazi regime. It’s the ideal event for those tired of Hollywood blockbusters, and who knows? You might even learn something.

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