The eighth edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival created history of sorts on Thursday when it opened for the first ever time with an Emirati work, Ali Mostafa's From A to B. The festival, having grown considerably in the last few years, poses an interesting competition to the slightly older Dubai International Film Festival, held every December - a competition that one sees even today among the three most important movie festivals in the world, Cannes, Venice and Berlin.
The other significance about From A to B is its breeziness, a quality that is most suited for any film festival to start its calendar. A road movie about three Western educated young men who drive from Abu Dhabi to Beirut to visit the grave of a friend who was killed when the Lebanese city was shelled in 2006, From A to B kept the audience in splits.As the film runs, one also sees fascinating characterisations unfold. The dominant mother of one of the three men who hates to see her son out of her sight even for a day, the equally possessive and pregnant wife of another man and the dark skeleton in the third one's cupboard. He had been secretly bedding the dead friend's fiancee.
The journey the men take by itself turns out to be both perilous and amusing as they drive through Saudi Arabia (getting caught by the cops who mistake the men for gays) and some other parts of the Middle East ravaged by war. At other times, the men get caught in some of the most embarrassing situations: one of them finds the girl he is trying to woo walking away with his swimming trunks leaving him naked in the pool! But then the men escape the most dangerous of situations because one of them has a diplomat father.
Earlier, actor Irrfan Khan, leading the top Narrative Feature Competition Jury, and Anup Singh (Qissa), part of The New Horizons Jury, were presented on the stage along with the other members.
French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb and American producer Edward Pressman were honoured with the festival's Career Achievement Awards. Pressman is known for works such as The Crow, American Psycho and Wall Street. Bouchareb's most recent film, Two Men in Town, will screen on Saturday.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for Hindustan Times.)