The Dubai International Film Festival, starting December 9, will have 12 titles from the United Arab Emirates competing in the prestigious Muhr Emirati Competition. The compelling lineup will include five features, the highest ever in this section, and seven documentaries and shorts.
This unprecedented number of features proves the region’s rising talent, said the festival’s Artistic Director, Masoud Amralla Al Ali. “Now in its 12th year, we have seen the Arab movie industry and global interest in it develop at a rapid pace. And the festival is committed to providing a platform for local filmmakers to showcase their talent in the region and across the world.”
The highly anticipated debut feature Zinzana (Rattle the Cage), from Emirati director Majid Al Ansari, is a neo-noir thriller set in a small-town police station, where a young man is held for an unknown crime. As his interrogation begins, so does a cat-and-mouse game.
Smell of Bread tells the story of a hearing impaired child whose quiet life in bakery is shattered when she is molested and her family refuses to acknowledge the horrific incident.
Winner of the 2008 Muhr Emirati Competition, acclaimed director Saeed Salmeen Al Murry returns with his heart-warming world premiere feature, Going to Heaven. Which is a touching tale of an 11-year-old boy, Sultan, who longs for the tender care of his dead grandmother as he suffers through the cruelty of his stepmother.
Also a world premiere will be Abdullah by Humaid Al Suwaidi -- a story of conflict between tradition and ambition in a young Emirati whose only dream is to become a musician, a dream his conservative family opposes.
Tarek Alkazim’s The Man Who Met an Angel will also be a world premiere, focussing on good samaritan, whose life turns topsy turvy when his beliefs are challenged by a mysterious man.
Some of the shorts in Competition have fascinating narratives. The Man Who Saw Snow In Summer presents the life of a laundryman exploited by his employer. Open Wound centres on a girl who becomes a boxer only to confront her abusive husband.
Outside Competition, the Arab selection seems as exciting -- at least going by the plot lines and their novelty.
Highly acclaimed Moroccan helmer Hisham Lasri, arrives in Dubai with his latest, Starve Your Dog, which follows a once famous journalist desperate to make a comeback. He lands a major interview with the dreaded interior minister of a former despotic regime.
Famed for her multi-award winning documentary, Veils Uncovered, Lebanese director Noura Kevorkian will showcase her feature, 23 Kilometres. A tragic story of an Armenian man with end-stage Parkinson’s who makes his last road trip in the picturesque Bekaa Valley.
Mai Masri’s fiction feature, 3000 Nights, has been inspired by the true stories of children born in Israeli prisons, and girls coming of age there.
We also have a work from North Africa, Salem Brahimi’s Let Them Come, adapted from the breathtaking novel by Arezki Mellal. Rooted in Algeria’s conflict with fundamentalist communism, the movie tackles the toll political turmoil can take even within a single household.
Lebanon’s Danielle Arbid showcases Parisienne, set in the 1990s, about a young girl who flees the bloody civil war in the country and relocates in Paris, where she begins her quest for freedom.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the Dubai International Film Festival.)