How to make the most of the Dubai International Film Festival

There are many ways to approach the Dubai International Film Festival, from strategically planning each outing for maximum return to picking a film at random. Here is our lighthearted look at some of the options.
Actress Olga Kurylenko will be at DIFF. Rick Rycroft / AP photo
Actress Olga Kurylenko will be at DIFF. Rick Rycroft / AP photo

Here is a lighthearted guide on how to enjoy this year’s Dubai International Film Festival.

Go to meet the stars

How many times have you walked out of the cinema and been left with a burning question for the filmmaker? Or watched a movie and just wished you could meet the star in the real world?

One of the greatest gifts Diff offers is post-screening Q&As with the talent behind scores of the movies on offer, with audiences free to ask whatever they want, however simple or oblique.

Try: Breaking the Bank – the star Kelsey Grammer will be in town.

Out of the Ordinary – the Egyptian directing legend Daoud Abdel Sayed is set to attend.

Shelter – the British actor Paul Bettany will introduce his directional debut

The Imitation Game – the actor Matthew Beard is coming.

The Water Diviner – the former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko will be at Diff.

To beat the Oscar buzz

Diff falls at an intriguing time in the filmmaking calendar, at the end of the festival season, but before the 2015 Oscar nominations are announced on January 15. This year, the festival has picked up a string of movies that are on track to earn Best Foreign Language Film nominations, after being named as the official submission from their home nations (each country can enter just one film to the Academy).

Try: Wild Tales – Argentina’s Best Foreign Language Film submission.

Dukhtar – Pakistan’s Oscars entry.

Mommy – Representing Canada’s foreign language Academy Award entry.

For the glitz

If you’re the kind of person who spends more time thinking about your outfit than scrutinising IMDB, then chances are it’s the gala screenings which will appeal most, where guests get to walk the flashbulb-sparking red carpet into the purpose-built, 1,800-capacity Madinat Arena. This year Diff has gone a bit gala-crazy, hosting up to three crowd-pleasers a day.

Try: Boychoir – heartwarming Hollywood drama starring Dustin Hoffman.

Dolphins – the world premiere of the UAE drama from Waleed Al Shehhi, the winner of last year’s IWC Filmmaker Award at Diff.

Escobar: Paradise Lost – romantic thriller starring Benicio Del Toro, with the director Andrea Di Stefano tipped to attend.

To watch movies for free

For the casual movie fan, one of the highlights of Diff is the opportunity to catch entertaining and engaging movies live under the stars. So it’s good news that for the first time, the festival will host a series of screenings at JBR’s The Beach development, every night and entirely free to watch.

Try: The Bill Murray comedy St Vincent

The Indian-American romcom Meet the Patels

The world premiere of the Emirati comedy Abood Kandaishan

To learn about the world

You might not be a film buff, but Diff still offers an opportunity for any thinking person to expand their cerebral horizons with insightful documentaries that throw light on issues from communities across the globe. There’s no excuse not to.

Try: Nearby Sky, a UAE documentary about Fatima Ali Al Hameli, the first female Emirati camel owner to enter her animal in the country’s camel beauty pageant.

Red Army, a flashback to how the Soviet Union’s national ice hockey team was used to project socialist strength in the Cold War days.

Letters From Al Yarmouk, which distills the messages home from Palestinians living in Yarmouk, the largest refugee camp in Syria.

To go movie crazy

How many movies can you cope with in a day? The double, or even triple bill, is a challenge serious cinephiles truly relish and the one-shot nature of Diff screenings offers the perfect incentive to get stuck in to a full day of movies. I managed 21 movies at Diff last year – you’ll struggle to beat that.

This year, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday have films spaced well enough to comfortably allow three movies in a day.

Sample itinerary: Saturday, ­December 13:

2pm, A Most Violent Year (Madinat Theatre)

6.30pm, From A to B (Mall of the Emirates 12)

9.30pm, On the Bride’s Side (MOE 11)

To get insight into the region

You might live in the Middle East, but how often do expats get a taste of traditional life in the cosmopolitan UAE? Fiction films offer an unprecedented opportunity to go inside homes and take an often surprising look at the societal issues facing families in the Gulf and beyond.

Try: The world premiere of Cairo Time, from the acclaimed Egyptian director Amir Ramses.

The Iranian drama I’m Not Angry!, which had its premiere in Berlin.

The Sleeping Tree, the world premiere of a moving UAE/Bahrain family drama.

To be surprised

If all else fails, there’s great joy to be had in just rocking up to Vox MOE, circling a movie at random and heading straight in – so much to gain, and so little to lose.

Try: Anything.

Published: December 7, 2014 04:00 AM


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