Abu Dhabi festival spans globe

MEIFF unveils official lineup

Organizers at Abu Dhabi’s inaugural Middle East Intl. Film Fest (MEIFF) finally unveiled their official competish line-up Friday with a selection of a dozen features from across the globe, but only one from the region.

Line-up reflects the international aspect of the start-up fest, with entries from Latin America, Europe, Australia and the U.S., if a little lacking in the Middle East department. Only Lebanese helmer Nadine Labaki’s “Caramel” could claim to be from the region.

Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parannaud’s animated “Persepolis,” which charts a young girl’s bittersweet experiences in the shadow of the 1979 Iranian revolution, does at least deal with subject matter relating to Middle East, although pic is voiced in French and all coin is from Gaul. Pic, which has been a smash hit in France with more than 1 million admissions since its post-Cannes bow, has been selected as France’s representative for the foreign-language Academy Award.

Politics features prominently in the selection with James Strouse’s Iraq drama “Grace Is Gone” and Holocaust drama “The Counterfeiters” vying for the MEIFF’s top prize, dubbed the Black Pearl awards.

Prize, which includes potentially unlimited production grant for winner helmer to take forward to his next project, is richest on film fest calendar.

Other selections are Nic Balthazar’s “Ben X,” Anders Morgenthaler’s “Echo,” Jake Paltrow’s “The Good Night,” Rodrigo Pla’s “La Zone,” Michael James Rowland’s “Lucky Miles,” Lina Chamie’s “The Milky Way,” Philippe Barcinski’s “Not by Chance,” and Stephane Gauger’s “The Owl and the Sparrow.”

Competish was open to entries from any debut or sophomore helmer from around the world. “They represent world-class talent, a terrific combination of critically-acclaimed films, award winners and crowd pleasers,” said Jon Fitzgerald, festival director.

Fest unspools Oct. 14-19, with a three-day film financing circle also taking place from Oct. 15-17.

One notable absence from line-up was Israeli pic “The Band’s Visit.” Pic was under consideration but had never been confirmed, despite the over-hasty reporting in some publications.

Selection of pic would have been significant given the sensitivities which remain over Israeli films bowing in Arab film fests.

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