The Seventh Dubai International Film Festival is all set for a gala opening here this evening with Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, a highly acclaimed work that has already created a big buzz by clinching eight British independent Film Awards, including those for Best Picture. It stars Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth (who was last seen in stylist-turned-helmer Tom Ford’s A Single Man).Firth will walk the Red Carpet, promoting big time his movie based on a true story tracing the struggle of a king tortured by a debilitating stammer. Forced on to the throne of England after his father dies and brother Edward VIII abdicates in order to marry a commoner, Mrs Simpson, Firths’ King George VI would hire a speech therapist to help him tide over
Along with Firth, this evening’s celebrity lineup will include actor Sean Penn, Cannes prize winner Souleymane Cisse from Africa and Pan-Arab singer Sabah. They will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Sabah is the second woman to be feted by the festival, while Cisse will make Africa proud.
In the days to come, the festival will see celebrities such as Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Peter Weir, Beau Garrett, Jean Reno (who is acting in an Emirati work, The Philosopher directed by Abdulla Al Kaabi) Carey Mulligan, Khaled Abol Naga, Bushra, Nelly Karim, Aparna Sen and Shyamaprasad.
The bevy of personalities from Asia, Africa and the Arab world and the honoree list convey that the festival is keyed in to showcase the best of international cinema, stepping far beyond glitz and glamour.
And the 157 films from 57 countries that have been lined up in the next eight days till December 19, will perhaps highlight this. The canvas is really wide stretching from South America to South Korea, with a strong competition thrown in. A robust market and a far greater public interaction than seen in earlier years will mark the Festival.
In a significant first, audiences across Dubai will be able to watch the Red Carpet ceremony live and for free at the Festival’s new outdoor venue in the Jumeirah Beach Resort.
Subsequent red carpet events over the next week include the Arabian gala screening of Six, Seven, Eight, one of the most anticipated movies from Egyptian cinema; and the controversial Egyptian love story Cairo Exit.
The festival’s important Arab films, representing the length and breadth of the Arab world from Iraq to Morocco, are primarily distributed among its in-competition Muhr Arab and Muhr Emirati Awards segment and its out-of-competition Arabian Nights and Gulf Voices categories.
The festival includes 41 world and 13 international premiers that will touch just about every genre from thriller to comedy and drama to documentary.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival)