Fest to close on Dec. 16 with 'Avatar'

Dubai Film Festival organizers aren’t letting the financial crisis in the once-booming emirate get in the way of announcing their lineup.

Rob Marshall’s musical “Nine,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman, will open the fest on Dec. 9. It is unclear if any of the cast, which also includes Sophie Loren and Marion Cotillard, will attend the gala screening.

Fest will close Dec. 16. with the regional preem of James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Other galas include animated pic “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.”

The event’s Muhr prize for Arab cinema — launched in 2006 with the ambition to become the premier showcase in the world for Arab filmmakers — has gathered a stellar lineup.

Among the 11 competition contenders are Egyptian helmer Kamla Abu Zekry’s “One-Zero,” Arab-American filmmaker Cherien Dabis’ “Amreeka” and French-Arab director Nassim Amaouche’s “Adieu Gary.”

Palestinian helmer Michel Khleifi’s “Zindeeq” receives its world preem as does Emirati filmmaker Ali Mostafa’s “City of Life.”

Organizers are rolling out the red carpet for Mostafa, who has previously won the Emirati Filmmaker prize at the fest and has long been seen as the Emirati helmer most likely to break out internationally.

Mostafa’s film, which finished principal photography in mid-March, takes its name from the English translation of Dubai’s oldest nickname.

The multi-lingual drama follows the intersecting lives of a privileged young Emirati, an Indian taxi driver and Romanian flight attendant all living in the bustling emirate.

Elsewhere, Indian acting icon Amitabh Bachchan will receive a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to cinema as part of the fest’s honoree program. Previous recipients include Morgan Freeman, Egyptian superstar Adel Imam and Indian producer Yash Chopra.

Fest is also hosting a sidebar of French pics in its In Focus section. Among the pics selected are helmer Laurent Vinas-Raymond’s “I Forgot to Tell You,” starring Omar Sharif, and Francois Ozon’s “Le Refuge”

Gerard Butler will fly in to Dubai to receive Daily Variety’s international star of the year award.

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