ABU DHABI – The Abu Dhabi Film Festival kicked off on a proud note Thursday with Emirati helmer Ali Mostafa’s road movie “From A to B” world-preeming positively with a slew of Arab stars on the sumptuous Emirates Palace red carpet, kicking off a solid selection that mixes other Arab bows with the cream of the international fest crop.
Mostafa, Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy (“My Brother the Devil”) and his Lebanese partner Paul Baboudjian (“Here Comes the Rain”), plus thesps Fahad Albutrairi, Shadi Alfons, Fadi Rifaai, Abdul Mohsen El Nemer, Khaled Abol Naga and Samer Al Masri, pranced down the catwalk, marking the first time an Emirati pic opens the fest. Abu Dhabi is steadily upping its prominence within the Arab and global film industries.
“From A to B,” which is about three Western-educated Arab youths who travel 1,500 miles from Abu Dhabi to Beirut in memory of their deceased best friend, is the first Emirati feature co-financed by Abu Dhabi’s government-backed TwoFour54 and Image Nation and co-produced with Rotana. Among “A to B” stars is stand-up comic Fahad Albutairi, dubbed the “Seinfeld of Saudi Arabia,” who launched his career on YouTube.
Also on the Emirates red carpet were U.S. producer Ed Pressman and French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb, both being honored with lifetime achievement awards. Bouchareb is also booked to hold a masterclass. Bouchareb’s latest pic, Forest Whitaker-starrer “Two Men in Town” is unspooling in the showcase section.
The fest, now at its eighth edition, features a special Arab Diaspora sidebar this year dedicated to films by Arab directors who have left their native lands, such as Lebanon-born Swedish director Josef Fares’ comedy “Jalla! Jalla!,” from 2000, about Arab life in Sweden.
Fresh Arab titles world preeming include Egyptian auteur Ibrahim El Batout’s organ trafficking thriller “El Ott”; Iraqi helmer Raad Mushatat’s drama “Shepherd’s Silence,” about the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl in rural Iraq; and “Queens of Syria,” about a group of Syrian refugee women trying to stage a contempo Arabic adaptation of Euripides’ “Trojan Women,” helmed by U.K. and Middle-East-based Yasmin Fedda.
U.S. titles unspooling include Ramin Bahrani’s Andrew Garfield-starrer “99 Homes,” about the American housing bubble crisis, co-financed by Hyde Park and Image Nation.
The fest’s Narrative Features jury is headed by Bollywood star Irrfan Khan (“The Amazing Spiderman”).
The closer is Disney’s animated superhero adventure “Big Hero 6,” launching into the Middle East after world-premiering in Tokyo.
Fest runs through November 1.