Timeframe: When Abu Dhabi's Middle East Film Festival found its feet

The second edition of the capital's international film festival in 2008 drew serious star power, including Jane Fonda, Spike Lee and others

Jane Fonda receives a lifetime achievement award at Abu Dhabi's Middle East International Film Festival in 2008. AFP
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Fifteen years ago, the biggest names in Hollywood and world cinema descended on Abu Dhabi for the second annual Middle East Film Festival.

The 10-day event, which ran from October 10 to 19, featured 70 films competing for 16 Black Pearl Awards, with prizes totalling $1,000,000.

Films were shown at three locations in the capital, with red-carpet screenings held at the Emirates Palace hotel, and others at Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall.

Screen veteran Jane Fonda, known for her roles in films Klute, Barbarella and On Golden Pond, received a lifetime achievement award on October 15.

Other celebrities who attended the festival included Susan Sarandon, Joseph Fiennes, Eva Green, Adrian Brody, Antonio Banderas, Sir Ben Kingsley and Meg Ryan.

The festival’s red carpet also welcomed several film and television stars from the Arab world, including Yusra, Latifa, Elham Shaheen, Safeya El Emery, Khaled Saleh and Hussein Fahmy.

Film director Spike Lee attended to show his film Miracle at St Anna, alongside one of the film's stars, Omar Benson Miller.

The festival also hosted the eighth edition of the Emirates Film Competition, in which more than 25 films from the region were entered hoping to win the top prize. The top prize at the festival, The Black Pearl for Best Narrative Film, went to Australian filmmaker Steve Jacobs’ film Disgrace starring John Malkovich.

The festival’s closing film was Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. The film is a spy thriller set in the Middle East in which DiCaprio’s character is a CIA agent who travels to Jordan to uncover a terrorist plot.

The closing ceremony also featured a musical act that included an Emirati boy who entertained attendees with a display of traditional dancing.

The film festival was rebranded as the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2010, and remained a mainstay of the capital's cultural calendar until 2015.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 6:01 PM