10 films to watch at the European Film Festival in Abu Dhabi

The event, running from May 12 to 16 at the Cultural Foundation, will feature recent movies from across Europe

Oulaya Amamra in Divertimento, a film from France which will be screened as part of the European Film Festival in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Estello Films
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The European Film Festival is set to return for its annual celebration of cinema from the continent. Organised by the European Union Delegation to the UAE in collaboration with the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi, the event will take place from Sunday to Thursday.

This year's festival, a version of which is held in more than 90 countries worldwide, features both Oscar nominees and hidden gems of European filmmaking. Through partnerships with Cineuropa and EU member state embassies, consulates, and cultural institutes in the UAE, the festival aims to foster cultural exchange and collaboration within the vibrant film community of the Emirates.

Film fans can expect a diverse line-up featuring 10 films from European countries including the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia and Sweden. From gripping dramas to thought-provoking documentaries, the European Film Festival offers audiences in the UAE a unique opportunity to embark on a cinematic journey across the heart of Europe.

Here are the ten films that will be screened in this year’s edition of the festival at Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Foundation.

Divertimento – France

Directed by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar and starring Oulaya Amamra and Lina El Arabi, Divertimento tells the story of a musical prodigy, 17, who yearns to become a conductor, while her twin sister hopes to become a cellist. The film navigates the journey of the two girls and is based on a true story. The film screened at the 2023 Stony Brook Film Festival in New York and won a special recognition award there.

A Butterfly’s Heart – Lithuania

Titled Drugelio sirdis in Lithuanian, this film presents a wholesome story of a 10-year-old child who was born with his heart outside his body. The child is obsessed with insects and collects them to take care of them and study them. A Butterfly’s Heart is directed by Inesa Kurklietyte and stars Elijas Malinauskas as the child lead.

I Am Zlatan – Sweden

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from playing professional football last year at the age of 41. The prolific goal scorer experienced a great career as he moved around Europe and even spending a season in Los Angeles. In this film, directed by Jens Sjogren, the story of Ibrahimovic’s upbringing and his journey to becoming the global superstar is told through the eyes of a young Zlatan played by Dominic Andersson Bajraktati and Granit Rushiti.

Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs – Latvia

This quirky animated film from Latvia promises to be a fun and heartwarming experience. The film is directed by Edmunds Jansons, and tells the story of Jacob and Mimi, two kids who befriend talking dogs during their summer break.

Luzzu – Malta

The small island of Malta is known for its touristic locales and historically rich cities. In this film by Alex Camilleri, we see a different side of Malta as we follow the story of a man’s attempt to make a legitimate living while being swayed by more lucrative but illegal means. The film stars Jesmark Scicluna and Michela Farrugia.

The Man Without Guilt – Slovenia

This film is set in the town of Trieste on the border between Slovenia and Italy and tells the story of a woman who deals with loss, regret and attempts of redemption. The Man Without Guilt is a dense and dramatic film with a strong performance from its lead Valentina Carnelutti. The film won the Best Debut award at the 2023 Slovene Film Festival.

The Quiet Girl – Ireland

Colm Bairead’s film was nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 2023 Academy Awards and lost out to All Quiet on the Western Front from Germany. The Quiet Girl stars Catherine Clinch and Carrie Crowley and tells the story of a neglected girl who is sent away to live with her relatives in rural Ireland. The film has been nominated for several awards, including a Bafta for Best Screenplay.

Restore Point - Czech Republic

This science fiction-action hybrid directed by Robert Hloz follows a female detective as she investigates the case of a murdered couple in a future where a restoration team can bring one of them back to life. The film is set in 2041 and presents a world in which crime is more solvable than it is now because of new technology.

The Little Comrade – Estonia

Set during the 1950s as the Soviets are attempting to suppress a resistance movement in a little town in the Estonian countryside, this film tells the story of a young girl who grapples with her reality as her parents are separated. The Little Comrade is directed by Moonika Siimets and stars Helena Maria Reisner, Tambet Tuisk and Yuliya Aug.

There's Still Tomorrow – Italy

Actress Paola Cortellesi goes behind the camera for her directorial debut. The film also stars Cortallesi and tells the story of a young woman in 1940s Italy who bucks her family’s expectations and attempts to take control of her future, featuring Valerio Mastandrea, Romana Maggiora Vergano and Francesco Centorame in supporting roles.

Updated: May 10, 2024, 3:09 AM