Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2013 opens with Life of Crime

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival returns this month for its seventh showing in the capital. Here’s what movie fans can expect to see:

A still from Life of Crime. Courtesy of Hyde Park Entertainment
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Big-name movies

Opening night with the regional premiere of Life of Crime, which is based on a novel by Elmore Leonard and was one of his last projects he was involved in before his death in August, The heist film, which has been produced by Image Nation - a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, which also owns The National- features a stellar cast list including Tim Robbins, Jennifer Aniston and Mos Def.

The festival will also see the regional premiere of Enemy, an unsettling psychological thriller featuring Jake Gyllenhaal and Isabella Rossellini. Philomena, the true-life tale of an Irish mother’s attempts to find the son she gave away, stars British talent Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Meanwhile, Filipino film fans should catch Barber’s Tales, the first showing in the Middle East of the acclaimed indie film starring comedian Eugene Domingo. Other must-sees include environmental thriller Night Moves, with The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg in the lead, oddball director Jim Jarmusch’s vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive and Enough Said, the Nicole Holofcener comedy drama featuring the late James Gandolfini.

Arabic selection

An impressive crop of Arabic films are jostling for position in the upcoming programme.

From Egypt’s rising indie star Ahmad Abdalla comes Rags and Tatters, a near-scriptless film following a convict who escapes from prison during the first revolution. Another big hitter is Bastardo, a Tunisian film noir-ish drama written and directed by Nejib Belkhadi, in which a downtrodden orphan takes on the thugs who control his ghetto.

In the heartfelt epic Giraffada, the debut feature from Rani Massalha, a 10-year-old Palestinian boy must travel from the West Bank to Tel Aviv to find a companion for a giraffe after an Israeli airstrike kills her mate. The Rooftops, the follow up to Merzak Allouache’s widely-acclaimed The Repentant, sets five-intertwining dramas across the heights of Algiers, offering a microcosm of Algerian society and exposing class and religious divides. Mohamed Al-Daradji, the Iraqi director who returns to Abu Dhabi for a third time, presents In The Sands of Babylon, in which three mass grave survivors recount tales of their attempted murders at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Star showings

As Life of Crime was part-funded by Abu Dhabi, this surely should up the chances of having one of its stars traipse the scarlet rug. Could we be seeing Anniston, Robbins or indeed Def at the Emirates Palace on opening gala night? One talent certain to appear is the hugely talented Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas (The Visitor). She’ll be presented the Black Pearl Career Achievement Award during the festival.

Indian cinema centenary

To mark 100 years of Indian cinema, ADFF has included a special programme of films in Hindi, Urdu,  Bengali and Assamese by some of the subcontinent’s top filmmakers, each marking a different period and subtly reflecting the nation’s socioeconomic, political and cultural realities post-independence.

The line-up includes Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957); Subarnarekha (1965) by Ritwik Ghatak; Duvidha (1973) by Mani Kaul, Garm Hawa by M S Sathyu; and Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai (1987) by Jahnu Barua.

Made in the UAE

The Emirates Film Competition gives local and regional directors the chance to compete for prizes in the narrative or documentary filmmaking catagories. It also honours up and coming talent in a student competition. One short to watch out for is Feeding Five Hundred by Rafed Al Harth, which charts the life of a man who feeds 500 stray cats a day and was chosen from thousands of entries to screen last month at the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival in the UK.

The Classics

Movie fans will be given the rare opportunity to see newly preserved and restored cinematic masterpieces in full big screen glory. These include Sergio Leone’s epic Western Once Upon A Time In the West, Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, and the breathtaking fantasy The Thief of Baghdad.

• Abu Dhabi Film Festival runs from October 24 to November 2. Tickets go on sale online on October 8. Visit www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae for more information