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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Amritraj, Whitaker at Abu Dhabi fest opening

Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustantimes.com  Abu Dhabi, October 25, 2013
First Published: 15:20 IST(25/10/2013) | Last Updated: 12:31 IST(26/10/2013)

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival began here last night with a star-studded gala that was followed by the screening of an American movie, Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime, a delightful romp through a kidnap gone horribly wrong. Two men recently out of jail abduct the socialite wife of a rich property owner, but the man with ill-gotten wealth all stashed away is in no mood to oblige with the ransom. For, he is all set to divorce his wife and marry a hot young woman.

Before Life of Crime kicked off the festival, actor Forest Whitaker (who was recently seen in the opening film at Mumbai, The Butler, though he did not mark his presence there) --  was honoured with a Black Pearl Lifetime Achievement Award. Also being feted with a Lifetime Achievement Award is Palestinian actress and director, Hiam Abbas, who is also on the main jury.

Abbas, who starred in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, Thomas McCarthy’s The Visitor, and Eran Riklis’ Lemon Tree, among other works, made her directorial debut in 2012 with Palestinian Inheritance. The latest picture where she stars is Ghazi Albuliwi’s Peace After Marriage, which will open the Abu Dhabi Showcase section.

On the opening night, Whitaker was seen strutting on the Red Carpet at the magnificent Emirates Palace with lots of Arab talent including Tunisian actress Hend Sabri (The Yacoubian Building); Jordan’s Eyad Nassar; Syrian actress Kinda Aloush and Palestinian actress Manal Khader (Divine Intervention).

India’s tennis-player-turned-producer Ashok Amritraj -- who was also seen on the stage during the inaugural ceremony along with Schechter and Crime actor Mark Boone, will hold a master class about his eventful journey from his home in Chennai to the tennis courts of the world and finally to Hollywood – where he has been producing highly successful movies under his Hyde Park Entertainment banner.

His story is now a book, an autobiography, which was recently launched in India. 

Abu Dhabi’s seventh edition, headed by Ali Al Jabri , has an engaging basket of films, including In the Sands of Babylon, by Iraqi-Dutch director Mohamed Jabarah Al-Daradji,  Egyptian social drama  Villa – 69 ( a first narrative feature by Ayten Amin who co-directed documentary Tahrir 2011: the Good, the Bad and the Politician), Danis Tanovich’s An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker,  Child’s Pose by Calin Peter Netzer ( both premiered in Berlin), Jia Zhangke’s Touch of Sin, (at Cannes) and Venice Golden Lion winner Sacro GRA, by Gianfranco Rosi.

The festival will run till November 2.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Abu Dhabi Film Festival)

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