The best of Dubai International Film Festival 2014

We round up the best of the best at the forthcoming Dubai International Film Festival.
Taher Rahim as Santa in La P`ere Noël.
Taher Rahim as Santa in La P`ere Noël.

We round up the best of the best at the forthcoming Dubai International Film Festival.

Academy Award contenders

Get ahead of the Academy Awards by seeing seven international films that have been submitted for Best Foreign Film Academy Award consideration.

• Argentina: Relatos Salvajes translates into Wild Tales, which seems an apt ­description of Damián Szifrón’s interlocking stories about the absurdity in the quest for success.

• Afghanistan: The title of A Few Cubic Centimetres of Love (Jamshid Mahmoudi) refers to the amount of space Afghan refugees live in as they try to make a life in Tehran.

• Canada: A French-Canadian director. Quelle surprise? Xavier Dolan’s Mommy will wave the red and white maple leaf flag.

• Iraq: Imagine being nominated for an Oscar with your debut? The Hollywood Reporter called Mardan, Batin Ghobadi’s first feature set in the Kurdish mountains: “a dark, very offbeat police procedural.”

• Pakistan: A mother and daughter go on the lam after the daughter is promised as payment for a tribal debt. Afia Nathaniel’s movie premièred at the Toronto International Film Festival.

• Sweden: Only a country that knows from cold would make a comedy about an avalanche. A Swedish family’s vacation in the Alps goes awry in Ruben Östlund’s Turist (a.k.a. Force Majeure).

Working hard

These actors are doing double – and in some cases triple – duty appearancein more than one film at the festival.

• Khalid Abdalla: You’ll recognise this ­British-Egyptian from United 93 and The Kite Runner. At diff, he stars as a writer searching for his missing brother in the Moroccan The Narrow Frame of Midnight and in Tigers, a battle between an infant formula salesman and the corporation that ignores his warnings about the product’s safety.

• Naomi Watts: From a princess to a ­pregnant prostitute. So goes this ever-­interesting career. Besides playing a lady of the night who helps Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy raise a fatherless boy in St Vincent, last year’s Princess Di does double duty in Birdman as a first-time actress caught up in Michael Keaton’s character’s in the Broadway show.

• Reese Witherspoon: Serious Oscar buzz for this star who treks in Wild. The former Elle Woods goes Legally Brunette in The Good Lie.

• Tahar Rahim: This 33-year-old French hunk does his best Billy Bob Thornton when he dons his Bad Santa suit in La Pere Noël. Parents needn’t fear; we’re sure Rahim’s holiday thief comes around in the end. From the team that brought you The Intouchables comes Samba, another story of immigrants. Rahim is third on the bill behind Omar Sy (the caretaker in The Intouchables) and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

• Brady Corbet: Just because you’re not a capital “S” star, doesn’t mean you don’t do great work. Clearly the former 24 star (he played Derek Huxley in Season 5), is in demand, as he shows up in three diff selections: Eden, about the birth of French electronic music; Escobar: Paradise Lost, about a Canadian surfer who hooks up with the famous drug king’s niece; and Turist (Force Majeure) (see above).

• Uzimann: Impress all your friends at screenings of St. Vincent (see above)and Shelter, actor Paul Bettany’s debut as a director starring his wife as a homeless woman by noticing the bald, little guy who has made a career out of roles as clerks and cab drivers. He plays gambler in St. Vincent and worshipper in Shelter.

The cast of Cake

While Jennifer Aniston is getting some serious Oscar buzz for her performance (and transformation) in this indie film, no less than four of her Cake colleagues have done work appearing at diff.

• Anna Kendrick: She can act (with an Oscar nomination for Up in the Air), she’s hilarious (her Super Bowl ad won the day) and, of course, she’s lovely. But did you know Kendrick could sing? The 29-year-old plays Cinderella in the fairy-tale mash-up Into the Woods, with music by none other than Stephen Sondheim himself. In Cake, Kendrick plays Nina, a woman whose suicide prompts Aniston’s character, Claire, to stalk Nina’s husband.

• Sam Worthington: Remember the wheelchair-bound dude from Avatar? Well, get ready for a lot more of him as new iterations of James Cameron’s blockbuster are scheduled for two, three and four years from now. In the meantime, Worthington is honing his thespian chops in serious fare like Cake, in which he plays the prey to Claire’s predator. The Englishman, 38, will be on screen at diff playing a widowed father in the Australian 3-D flick Paper Planes.

• Lucy Punch: The comedic actress plays Nurse Gayle in Cake, a bit part the Londoner is used to getting. Despite being at least 27 per cent more attractive than average, Punch is always being cast as a prostitute (Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger, She’s Funny That Way) or an ugly stepsister. No, really. Into the Woods marks the fourth time she’s played such a role, most famously in 2004’s Ella Enchanted.

• Christophe Beck: This prolific composer’s career has spanned two decades and been featured in everything from a cheerleader movie (Bring it On) to The Hangover. In addition to his work on Cake, his score can be heard on the sports documentary Red Army, the story of the dominant Soviet Union ice hockey team.

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: December 7, 2014 04:00 AM

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