• The main programme
All films will be screened first at Novo Cinemas, World Trade Center Mall, Abu Dhabi, and a day later at Novo Cinemas in Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai. Tickets for the free screenings are available on a first-come, first-served basis on each day.
The European Film Screenings opens with Slovakia's official entry to the 2016 Academy Awards. The debut fiction feature from hard-hitting documentary filmmaker Ivan Ostrochovský (Velvet Terrorists), Koza is a gritty portrait of a former Olympic boxer forced back into the ring.
• Abu Dhabi, October 19, 8pm; Dubai, October 20, 8pm
Comme un avion
A heart-warming French comedy-drama from writer-director-star Bruno Podalydès, about a 50-something graphics artist who has always dreamed of flying an airmail plane. One day he assembles a kayak, which he thinks looks like an aircraft’s fuselage, and sets off on a voyage.
• Abu Dhabi, October 20, 7pm; Dubai, October 21, 7pm
The Snake Brothers
Winner of Best Czech Film at this year’s Czech Lion Awards, filmmaker Jan Prušinovský also picked up Best Director, and this edgy drama is about two brothers, Viper and Cobra, who deal with their dissatisfaction at small-town life in different ways.
• Abu Dhabi, October 20, 9pm; Dubai, October 21, 9pm
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
This typically barmy, surrealist work is the latest bold statement from veteran Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson. A bizarre, blackly comedic parable, it wraps his "existential trilogy" that began with Songs from the Second Floor in 2000. The winner of the Venice Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Lion, in 2014, this is an absolute must-see.
• Abu Dhabi, October 22, 9pm; Dubai, October 23, 9pm
Colin Farrell stars with Rachel Weisz in the first of a double-header of deliciously offbeat dark comedies. The Irish offering is set in a dystopian universe where single people are turned into animals of their choice if they fail to find love. Acclaimed Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, of Dogtooth fame, took home the Jury Prize at Cannes last year for this distinctly singular creation.
• Abu Dhabi, October 22, 7pm; Dubai, October 23, 7pm
This year’s Latvian entry for the Oscars is about the titular antihero, who is a 17-year-old with a gambling addiction, a father in jail he has never met and a strained relationship with his mother. First-time feature director Juris Kursietis has picked up a number of awards, including Best New Director at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.
• Abu Dhabi, October 23, 7pm; Dubai, October 24, 7pm
This tense, multi-award-winning thriller from directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, is about twin boys who are unable to recognise their mother after she undergoes cosmetic surgery. The film was Austria’s entry for this year’s Oscars.
• Abu Dhabi, October 23, 9pm; Dubai, October 24, 9pm
Mia Madre ≥
Nanni Moretti, the Palm d'Or-winning Italian director behind 2001's The Son's Room, was again nominated for Cannes' top prize last year for Mia Madre, which stars John Turturro. It is about a director who goes through an existential crisis while working on a film and dealing with the loss of his mother.
• Abu Dhabi, October 24, 7pm; Dubai, October 25, 7pm
La Isla Minima ¬
Also known by the English title Marshland, this Spanish thriller – about two ideologically opposed detectives sent to investigate the murder of two teenage girls – picked up numerous awards for director Alberto Rodríguez (and comparisons to hit US TV show True Detective).
• Abu Dhabi, October 24, 9pm; Dubai, October 25, 9pm
Also known as Voices from Chernobyl, the sole documentary in the festival features testimony from survivors and observers of the catastrophic nuclear disaster, in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, in the Soviet Union, which happened 30 years ago this year. It was made by veteran Luxembourgish director Pol Cruchten.
• Abu Dhabi, October 25, 9pm; Dubai, October 26, 9pm
Arabian Nights Volume 1: The Restless One
The first part of Miguel Gomes’s six-hour, three-part experimental quasi-documentary fantasy epic. Conceived as a response to the austerity measures that have gripped Portugal in the aftermath of the financial crisis, this bloated work is brilliant, beguiling and infuriating. Part two of the trilogy was Portugal’s entry for the Oscars.
• Abu Dhabi, October 25, 7pm; Dubai, October 26, 7pm
This war movie from director Jan Komasa – the title of which translates as City 44, and is also sometimes known as Warsaw 44 – takes place during the German occupation of Poland. Depicting the heroic but tragic Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the film won four awards at the Polish Film Awards and Polish Film Festival.
• Abu Dhabi, October 26, 7pm; Dubai, October 27, 7pm
Men & Chicken
EFS closes with this lighthearted Danish comedy from prolific writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen about two outcast brothers who discover their family secrets.
• Abu Dhabi, October 26, 9pm; Dubai, October 27, 9pm
• Arab cinema
All of the Arab films will be screened only at Novo Cinemas, Dubai Festival City
Let Them Come
This French co-production, from director Salem Brahimi, explores Algeria’s dark decade of the 1990s through an adaptation of Arezki Mellal’s family-chronicle novel. It was the winner of the Special Jury Prize in the Muhr Features category at last year’s Dubai International Film Festival.
• October 21, 9pm
Emirati filmmaker Humaid Al Suwaidi’s debut film, which had its premiere at last year’s Diff, takes its name from the central character, who grows up in a conservative family struggling to hide his love of music.
• October 23, 9pm
Very Big Shot
This fiery, funny thriller is about a small-time Lebanese drug dealer who hires a filmmaker to manipulate the public. The work of first-time feature director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, it boasts a soundtrack from musician, entrepreneur (and MusicHall founder) Michel Elefteriades.
• October 24, 9pm
Three displaced souls – a hermetic Palestinian, a talkative divorcee heading to Syria, and a Lebanese TV director – embark on a journey together across Jordan in a Volkswagen minivan. Directed by Rifqi Assaf.
• October 25, 9pm
Omar Shargawi’s second feature is about a man who returns to his father’s hometown, in an unnamed Arab nation, with his pregnant Danish wife in tow to start a new life.
• October 26, 9pm
• Family fun
The first of four films screening during the event's first family day, this 2014 British adaptation of the stories by author Michael Bond about the huggable Paddington Bear was so successful when it was released that director Paul King has already signed up to make a sequel.
• Abu Dhabi, October 21, noon; Dubai, October 22, noon
Ricky Rapper and The Nighthawk
This is the latest in a series of film adaptations of hit Finnish children's book series Ricky Rapper, about a young, aspiring musician. It is the nordic nation's biggest cinema hit of this year so far.
• Abu Dhabi, October 21, 3pm; Dubai, October 22, 3pm
Based on the book of the same name, this Dutch film, from director Anna van der Heide, has been a domestic smash since its July release.
• Abu Dhabi, October 21, 5pm; Dubai, October 22, 5pm
Hördur - Zwischen den Welten
In this 2015 German film from director Ekrem Ergün, Aylin, a 17-year-old Muslim girl with roots in Turkey but now living in Germany, struggles to reconcile her two worlds after a run-in with the law, but then finds comfort in a horse, Hördur.
• Abu Dhabi, October 21, 7pm; Dubai, October 22, 7pm
• Films screen at Novo Cinemas in WTC Mall, Abu Dhabi, and a day later at Novo Cinemas in Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai