Actors turn spotlight on politics, charity at event

Cheers and tears marked the opening of the Dubai Film Festival as George Clooney charmed festgoers while Sharon Stone cried all the way to the bank with a $1 million-plus cume from her AmFar charity auction.

Clooney, whose legal drama “Michael Clayton” opened the fest on Saturday, found himself treated more like a diplomat than a film star as Mideast journalists asked a series of political questions at his press confab.

Darfur, U.S. foreign policy and Hollywood’s depiction of Arabs all came up repeatedly in an energetic hour-long Q&A session.

“We panic at times in our country but what we’re very good at is fixing those panics. We are now in the process of righting some of the mistakes that our country has made over the last few years,” said Clooney. “I am not going to come to Dubai and call the president of the United States a terrorist. That’s not my goal in life.”

Stone reminded Dubai auds of the seriousness of her work for HIV/Aids research charity at Monday’s bash, the first time AmfAR has organized a Mideast event. Gala auction was held in the idyllic desert setting of the Bab Al Shams resort, an hour’s drive from downtown Dubai.

With an exclusive guest list of Dubai’s movers and shakers, Stone appeared visibly moved by the occasion, breaking down at one point in her speech.

“How few and far between are our opportunities to come together as world citizens and see our similarities,” said Stone, fighting back the tears. “This is a very big thing for us.”

Stone soon had her charity mojo working on the crowd, however, bringing in well over a $1 million with her customary mix of cajoling and pleading during the auction.

The combined star power of Clooney and Stone has given the Dubai fest, now in its 4th year, its splashiest opening yet.

The coming days will see the focus shift more towards Mideast cinema, starting with today’s world preem of Moroccan helmer Nabil Ayouch’s “Whatever Lola Wants,” at $12 million the most expensive Moroccan feature ever. Majority of coin came via Gaul’s Pathe.

Ayouch’s English-language pic tells the story of a Gotham dancer who travels to Cairo to fulfill her dream of becoming a belly dancer.

Fest runs through Dec. 16.

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