10 films not to miss at Dubai International Film Festival 2015

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With 134 films screening over eight days at this year’s festival, film buffs have plenty to choose from. Chris Newbould picks 10 of the best that you won’t want to miss.


Director: Thomas McCarthy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo

This based-on-fact story of how reporters from the Boston Globe's Spotlight team of investigative reporters exposed child-abuse in the catholic church has been a hit with critics and audiences alike, and the film is tipped for Oscars glory. The Washington Post mentioned it in the same breath as Orson Welles's Citizen Kane – no small compliment. To see the trailer click here.

Monday, December 14, 10pm, Madinat Arena


Director: Phillipe Faucon

Starring: Soria Zeroual

Faucon's French drama is especially topical, given recent events in Europe. Based on the autobiographical book Prayer to the Moon, the film tells the story of Moroccan immigrant Fatima Elayoubi, who struggles to adjust to life in a less-than-welcoming France in the 1980s. She channels her turmoil into writing letters in Arabic to her daughters, expressing what she cannot say in French. To see the trailer click here.

Thursday, December 10, 6.30pm, Mall of the Emirates; Saturday, 2.45pm, MoE


Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

DIFF's opener, which won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, tells the story of a mother and her young son who have been imprisoned in a room for five years. After a successful escape, the pair try to adjust to the amazing, but terrifying world outside their prison. To see the trailer click here.

Thursday, December 10, 10pm, Madinat Theatre (sold out but standby tickets may be available at the venue)


Directors: Khurram Alavi and Ayman Jamal

Starring: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ian McShane, Jacob Latimore

Made entirely in Dubai, Bilal is the highest-profile and biggest-budget animated film yet to emerge from the Middle East. Kidnapped and sold into slavery in a faraway land as a child, Bilal dreams of finding his voice and escaping his chains to become a great warrior.

Thursday, December 10, 9.30pm, Madinat Theatre. To see the trailer click here


Director: Majid Al Ansari

Starring: Ali Suleiman, Saleh Bakri

Another UAE production, Image Nation-produced Zinzana is a psychological drama set entirely within single room in a police station. It received rave reviews at Fantastic Fest in Texas and the London Film Festival and genre fans on both sides of the Atlantic are hailing director Majid Al Ansari as a new Arab master of the form. To see the trailer click here.

Thursday, December 10, 6pm, Madinat Arena; Saturday, 10pm, MoE. Also on general release in cinemas from Thursday.

The Lady in the Van

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings

Adapted by Alan Bennett from his autobiographical play. Maggie Smith is always watchable and she's had plenty of practice in this role, having appeared in the original stage play and on radio. The film tells the story of the writer's relationship with a homeless woman he allowed to live in a van on his driveway for 15 years. To see the trailer click here.

Sunday, December 13, 7pm, The Beach (free screening); Tuesday, 7pm, MoE sold out but standby tickets may be available at the venue)


Director: Sarah Gavron

Starring: Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, Carey Mulligan

Another British drama, this time starring Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of Britain's suffragette movement, which battled in the early 20th century the to win for women the right to vote. Carey Mulligan plays Maud Watts, who faces a torrid time following her conversion to the cause. To see the trailer click here.

Sunday, December 13, 6pm, Madinat Theatre; December 16, 2.45pm, M0E.

The Tainted Veil

Directors: Nahla Al Fahad, Mazen Al Khayrat and Ovidio Salazar

This thought-provoking, partly Emirati-directed, documentary about the history and perception of the hijab visited nine countries across the Middle East and Europe to interview its subjects, and was longlisted for next year's Best Documentary Oscar. To see the trailer click here.

Monday, December 14, 7.30pm, Madinat Theatre; Wednesday, 5.30pm, MoE


Director: Grimur Hakonarson

Starring: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson

Typically quirky Icelandic fare, in which two feuding brothers, who communicate only through written messages delivered by their sheepdog, are forced to work together to save their flock from disease. To see the trailer click here.

Friday, December 11, 2.45pm, MoE; December 16, 2.30pm, MoE

The Big Short

Director: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell

This year's festival closer is a star-studded ensemble piece in which four bankers take on the murky world they are employed in, after their predictions of the financial collapse of 2008 were ignored. To see the trailer click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 8pm, Madinat Arena.