DUBAI – The 10th Dubai Film Festival kicked off Friday with Palestinian helmer Hany Abu-Assad’s powerful drama “Omar,” about violence in the West Bank, a clear signal of the event’s ongoing commitment to Arab cinema though Hollywood is also well-represented during what is DIFF’s landmark first-decade edition.
Abu-Assad and the mostly non-pro cast of “Omar,” which is Palestine’s foreign Oscar candidate – and was also the only Arab film at Cannes this year – strutted down the red-carpet along with Cate Blanchett, Martin Sheen, Jim Sheridan, and a slew of Middle East celebs.
Scott Cooper’s “Out of the Furnace” is among English-language titles launching into the Middle-East from Dubai’s Cinema of the World section, which also includes local bows of Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and Kevin Macdonald’s “How I Live Now.”
During the opening ceremony lifetime achievement awards were presented to Egyptian film critic Samir Farid, who has championed Arab cinema for nearly 50 years, and to Sheen, who will be holding an onstage conversation about his glorious career on Sunday.
A delegation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with whom Dubai has partnered, will also be attending.
DIFF Chariman is Abdulhamid Juma is touting the current lineup as the most diverse in the festival’s ten years. It may also go down in the annals as the boldest. Titles unspooling on Saturday include the world preem of Lebanese helmer Mahmoud Kaabour’s “Champ of The Camp,” a depiction of life in Dubai’s brutal labor camps recounted by the workers who participate in a local Bollywood-style singing competition. World sales to “Champ” were picked up Friday at the Dubai mart by Paris-based sales company Wide House.