City of Life still thriving after weeks near top of box office

Makers of the Dubai-based film hope to take it to the Cannes Film Festival next month.

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ABU DHABI // The first locally produced feature film, City of Life, is preparing for a fourth week in cinemas after 40,000 ticket sales kept it in the top five at the box office. Makers of the Dubai-based film, which follows the lives of Emirati, European and Indian characters, hope to take it to the Cannes Film Festival next month. The film's impressive numbers came despite being on only 12 screens in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah.

Tim Smythe, the producer, said it would have been even more popular had it not been classified as PG18. "A film like this would normally receive a PG15 age restriction," he said. In its first weekend on screens, 15,000 people saw the film, more than double the estimates of Gulf Film, the distributor. "We were number two in the box office on opening weekend and we opened on 12 screens against Clash of the Titans that opened on 40 screens," said Mr Smythe. "We beat Brooklyn's Finest with Richard Gere that opened on 24 screens."

City of Life is at number three in the box office for the second weekend, dropping one place following the release of Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey Jr, which opened at 53 screens across the country. Mr Smythe credits word of mouth for the movie's impressive showing. The 90-minute film, which includes scenes of characters consuming alcohol, indulging in extramarital affairs and even considering abortion, has received mixed reviews, including charges the characters are cliched and the subject matter too risque. Despite this, Mr Smythe said there were plans to show the movie around the region. "We are now in final negotiations with Shoreline for international distribution, and aim to market the film at Cannes later this month, which we hope will secure us European distribution. We are also negotiating a separate distribution deal with India."

Those who have seen the film were divided on whether it was a success. Hessa Marzouki, 23, a student from Abu Dhabi, said: "I was surprised to see such honesty in the movie. It tackles some tough issues. I really enjoyed it." But Hassan Ibrahim, 28, a finance analyst from Dubai, said that the film's characters were stereotypes, and worried they might not give a good impression of the country. "Some people are looking for reasons to criticise Dubai, but it's good to see my hometown in a movie. As long as people watch this with an open mind, I guess the development of the film industry here has to be a good thing for the economy."