Heading into an eighth edition, the Dubai Intl. Film Festival remains the grande dame of Emirati film festivals, holding its own against younger brethren such as Abu Dhabi and Doha by continuing its pioneering mandate to develop the local and regional industry while bringing a dazzling array of world cinema — and celebrities — to the hometown crowds.

This year’s event kicks off on Dec. 7 with the world premiere of “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” with star Tom Cruise and helmer Brad Bird on the red carpet. The pic filmed extensively in Dubai and includes thrilling shots of Cruise scaling the tower of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

Other big names slated to attend include German helmer Werner Herzog with his latest doc, “Into the Abyss,” Oz helmer Peter Weir, who heads the Arab feature competition jury, musician Neil Young and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Among the Hollywood titles are Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” and Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” with the helmer and star Shailene Woodley slated for the red carpet.

“My Week With Marilyn” from U.K. helmer Simon Curtis also receives red carpet treatment with stars Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Emma Watson in attendence.

Dubai continues to expand its support of Arab filmmaking through initiatives that provide training and grants in aid of every stage of the production process. New this year is an award of €5,000 ($6,754) for a Dubai Film Connection project from one of the Arab world’s Francophone countries sponsored by L’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

Eight of the features and documentaries slotted for the Arab competition received finishing coin from Enjaaz, Dubai’s post-production arm. Among the buzz docu titles are Laith Al-Juneidi’s Hebron-set “Invisible Policeman,” which world preemed at the Intl. Documentary Festival Amsterdam; Algerian Abdenour Zahzah’s concert docu “Andalucia”; Lebanese Simon El-Habre’s portrait of four Beirut truck drivers,”Gate No. 5″; and Jordanian Aseel Mansour’s biopic “Uncle Nashaat.”

Eleven pics vie for Arab feature, including Moroccan titles “The Rif Lover” from Narjiss Nejjar, Abdelhai Laraki’s “Love in the Medina” and Hakim Belabbes’ “Boiling Dreams.” Lebanon also fields three competitors: Danielle Arbid’s “Beirut Hotel,” Daniel Joseph’s “Taxi Ballad” and Youcef Joe Bou Eid’s “Heels of War.” The latter two are co-productions with the UAE.

Rounding out the competition are Susan Youssef’s Palestinian production “Habibi,” Iraq-born France-based Hiner Saleem’s “If You Die, I Will Kill You,” Egyptian title “The Whole One” from Hady Elbagoory and from Jordan, “The Last Friday” and “A 7 Hour Difference.”


Lifetime Achievement Awards
Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman, vet Egyptian thesp Gamil Rateb and German helmer Werner Herzog collect kudos.

Rhythm and Reels
Sigur Ros’ “Inni,” “Peter Gabriel: New Blood Live in London in 3D,” “Neil Young Journeys,” “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne,” plus world preems of “Silence: All Roads Lead to Music” and “The Girls in the Band” screen.

Celebration of Indian Cinema
A gala world preem of Bollywood romantic comedy “Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl” kicks off the proceedings.

In Focus: Germany
Five new Teuton titles unspool, including a gala screening of Christian Zubert’s “Three Quarter Moon,” plus Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s silent classic “Pandora’s Box” with live musical accompaniment from the UAE Philharmonic Orchestra.

Director Master Classes
Germans Werner Herzog and Volker Schlondorff, Syrian Mohamad Malas and Egyptian Mohamad Khan wax wise.

Film Forum
Industry panels, case studies and networking sessions with top professionals from around the world.

Arabian Nights
This popular program strand kicks off with a gala screening of Egyptian helmer Wael Ehsan’s “An Hour and a Half.”

Childrens’ Programming
James Bobin’s “The Muppets” receives a gala screening, as does U.K. title “Arthur Christmas” with helmer Sarah Smith accompanied by her voice actor stars.

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