Middle East Film & Comic Con: our definitive guide

With celebrity appearances, movie screenings, cospplay competitions and live music, Middle East Film & Comic Con is a huge event. Here is our guide to making the most of it.

 Emirati Rafat Anter, left, as Beastman and American Randolph Costilow as Skeletor. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Middle East Film & Comic Con is huge, so make the most of it with the help of our handy guide, which will ensure that you get to see everything you want to and don’t miss any of the big guests and events.

The basics

We'll get the obvious stuff out of the way first. First of all, buy tickets in advance (visit www.mefcc.com for details). The event is hugely popular, and the queues to get in on the day were daunting last year.

Take some sensible shoes – you will be doing a lot of walking if you want to see everything and, while those stilettos that come with your Catwoman outfit might seem a good idea at 10am, they may feel less so by the time night falls.

Take a bag, too. You might not plan on buying anything, but the vast array of comics, memorabilia and novelties on display can be strangely alluring.

If you want to keep in touch with friends during the event, make sure you have plenty of battery life in your phone. If you’re in for a long day, take a spare battery or charger, too – it’s easy to get separated from friends.

The celebrity guests

The meet-and-greets, signing sessions and photoshoots with celebrity guests are always one of the most popular strands and the organisers have pulled out all the stops to get some incredible big-name guests this year.

The headliner is no less than the ultimate Comic Con fantasy, Captain James T Kirk himself, William Shatner.

The supporting cast is no less impressive. Fan boys will be drooling at the prospect of meeting Gillian Anderson, star of the soon-to-relaunched X-Files.

Just announced this week, ­Marvel-movie star Hayley Atwell will be popping in. She starred as Peggy Carter in both Captain America movies and in the TV spin-off, Agent Carter, which was broadcast this year. She will also reprise the role in Avengers: Age of Ultron at the end of this month.

Sam Jones, star of Flash Gordon and, more recently, Ted, will be in town too, alongside the former Baywatch star Angelica Bridges, Arrow's Kelly Hu, and Clive Standen, best known for playing the warrior Rollo in the historical action-drama Vikings.

Game of Thrones fans can take part in a sword-fighting workshop with Miltos Yerolemou, better known as the shows's Syrio Forel, who taught Arya Stark how to wield a blade.

Believe us, that is only scratching the surface, so check the website for an up-to-date list as well as the timings of events with the stars.


MEFCC will this year be bringing a trio of legendary figures from the anime and manga industries to the Middle East.

The chief executives of major animation production studio Production I.G, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, and of the CGI-focused studio Sanzigen and Super Ultra Pictures, Hiroaki Matsuura, will be making their inaugural visit to the region to share their experience with fans.

They will be joined by Masami Suda, a veteran of the anime world who has worked on animation and character design for shows including Hokuto no Ken and Gatchaman – better known to international fans as Fist of the North Star and Battle of the Planets, respectively.

The outdoor stage

The outdoor stage and adjacent food and beverage area is always a big attraction.

This year, highlights will include Kris Fade broadcasting the Virgin Radio Roadshow in costume, local bands Nikotin and The Boxtones, karaoke and a quiz, celebrity appearances, live Nerf Wars, the ever-popular cosplay competition, and we’re even promised an appearance on stage by some real-life vikings, who will hopefully be taking it easy on the pillaging and plundering front.

Dress to kill

The event’s annual cosplay competition is always hugely popular, with awards in a host of categories, including movies, animation and comics for individuals and groups. The entries can vary wildly from the sublime to the ridiculous, but it’s always good fun to watch. The group section in particular usually features some serious dedication, and it’s always worth checking out what multiple group-contest winners, local cosplay group Order 66, have pulled out of the bag.

The organisers are also bringing in professional international cosplayers Leanna Vamp, Alodia Gosiengfiao and Madeleine “Zhiana” Rose to provide some inspiration. Check out Arts & Life tomorrow for our look at the local cosplay scene.

Movie Club

Reel Cinemas is once again at MEFCC with its Movie Club. Film highlights include the UAE premiere of the cult fan film Batgirl Rises. It's not all about films, though; the Movie Club is also where most of the panels and guest appearances take place. Shatner will be taking the stage at 3pm on Friday, while Anderson is scheduled for 4pm on Saturday, directly followed by Jones – check the full schedule on the website.

Game Zone

The Game Zone is where you'll find the pixelheads at MEFCC. Highlights in the zone this year include a chance to have a go with the very latest technology – the virtual-reality headset Oculus Rift – a playable sneak preview of Mortal Kombat X and the ever-popular commentator competition. There will also, as always, be a host of the latest and best games and consoles for visitors to play on.

It’s not all about video games, though – MEFCC will be celebrating International Tabletop Day on Saturday with a dedicated area where you can have a go at some of the latest board and card games.

Whether bluffing your way past the Sheriff of Nottingham with contraband or trying to work as a team to escape a cursed temple deep in the jungle, you’ll gather around a table to play with old friends or make new ones and be part of this fun, engaging and social hobby.

You'll also have a chance to pilot a classic T65 X-Wing in a battle against the Empire in a giant-scale Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game.

Local guests

There will be plenty of local faces among the Hollywood A-listers, too. From the artist and Cartoon Network Animation Academy graduate Fatima Al Mahairi to Foo Dog creator Mo Abedin, the filmmaker Faisal Hashmi, who will be premiering his short film Sleight, and the face of Dubai One TV, Omar Butti, the event offers one of the year's biggest showcases for local talents in the comic, graphic art and movie sectors.

Business forum

For the first time, this year’s event features a professional industry forum, Access: The Business of Entertainment.

It will bring together leading industry speakers from around the globe to take an inside look at the entertainment, licensing and content-creation business, giving delegates the chance to share, discuss and network.

The business forum, which is developed in association with LIMA, the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association, will have discussions on the latest trends in licensing, IP protection and regional retail, an in-depth discussion on gaming trends with international big hitters such as Charles Riotto, president of LIMA; Jeff Gomez, the chief executive of Starlightrunner Entertainment; Donna Bruschi, senior global licensing leader, Sony Pictures; and a host of regional names such as Helen Fielding, head of licensing for East West Licensing.

MEFCC runs from 10am to 9pm (schools and VIP ticket holders only from 10am to 4pm) on Thursday, April 9 and from 12pm to 10pm on Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11. Tickets start at Dh100 for a one-day pass. Visit www.mefcc.com