The most prestigious movie prize given out at DIFF is the Muhr Arab Feature Competition, which annually celebrates the Arab world’s greatest new movie. Chairing this year’s deciding jury is six-time Academy Award nominee Jim Sheridan, who says it was seeing the movies of Iranian great Abbas Kiarostami and last year’s groundbreaking Saudi Arabian competition winning movie Wadjda that perked his interest in the region’s cinema. ‘There’s a voice in the way [the Middle East] is represented [in Hollywood], and I don’t like it,’ said the 64-year-old.’I just want some balance.’
The Irish filmmaker is best known for a trio of classics he directed starring Daniel Day-Lewis: My Left Foot (1989), In the Name of the Father (1993) and The Boxer (1997), and Sheridan says he’s keen to direct the Oscar winner again. ‘It’s like working with a poet,’ he said. ‘He can’t not tell the truth, he doesn’t have that gene.’
Sheridan ranks Samantha Morton, who he worked with on In America (2002), and Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire, who he directed in Brothers (2009), as among the other greats he’s worked with. But he’s also quick to defend one of his more odd pairings: directing rapper 50 Cent in Get Rich or Die Tryin’. ‘50 was easy to work with, he worked so hard,’ he tells us. ‘My mistake is that I thought people would empathise much more with his story’.
But he’s less fond of his last blockbuster, labelling Dream House ‘a mess’ and blaming re-shoots and re-edits forced by the studio. ‘I felt like I was in an insane asylum,’ he adds: ‘Daniel was great though.’