Interestingly, the 10th Dubai International Film Festival will open here this evening with a Palestinian thriller, Omar.
This is of course a matter of pride and joy for Dubai -- there have been occasions when Cannes has had a French work as an opener, and there have been times when Venice has parted its curtains for an Italian picture. I have never seen the International Film Festival of India kick start with an Indian movie, probably its takes "international" too seriously.
Abu-Assad returns - after his critically acclaimed Paradise Now - with an equally absorbing work, Omar. The film is about a young Palestinian's dilemma caught as he is between the love for a girl and the pressure of having to rattle on his friend and possible brother-in-law.
An Israeli agent, Rami, arrests Omar. However, Rami offers to free Omar provided he says where his friend Tarek -- suspected of having killed an Israeli agent -- is. Omar, which I saw at Cannes last May, highlights the Catch-22 situation faced by many Palestinians, who are fed up of being humiliated and are often seduced into turning betrayers.
With a set of non-professional actors, Omar captures the essence of this predicament with realistic ease, though the film tends to be slightly repetitive towards its dramatic and tragic end. Photographed with panache, the scenes help heighten the frustration of a people, the vexation caught admirably through the life of young Omar.
Dubai festival will end on December 14 with David O Russell's American Hustle, a crime drama with a galaxy of stars (Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Robert De Niro) centering on the FBI's sting operations in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. American Hustle will hit the theatres later this month.
Apart from these, the Festival will screen 174 features, documentaries and shorts, including 70 world premieres and 11 international premieres from 57 countries in 43 languages. The line-up will have 100 Arab films, indicating a renewed interest in the region and a flourishing industry.
With two Red Carpet galas every day, the festival will have movies such as Jason Reitman's Labor Day (starring Academy Award winners Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin), Factory Girl by Mohamed Khan (featuring Yasmine Raees, Hani Adel and Salwa Khatab), 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen (featuring Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt), Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station, Ben Stiller's The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Lee Hancock's Saving Mr Banks (Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson) and Laila Marrakchi's Rock the Casbah (featuring Hiam Abbass, Nadine Labaki, Lubna Azabal, Morjana Alaoui and Omar Sharif).
The package includes four Indian works including Monsoon Shootout, Kajarya, Swapaanam and Shesher Kobita which stars Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen Sharma.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the 10th Dubai International Film Festival)