The 6th Abu Dhabi Film Festival kicked off in high gear Thursday with stars Richard Gere, Nate Parker and helmer Nicholas Jareki strutting down the red carpet of the Emirates Palace for the Middle East premier of Saudi producer Mohammed Al Turki’s “Arbitrage.”
Al Turki was also present with the Wall Street thriller’s other producers Brian Young, Kevin Turen and Justin Nappi.
A slew of Arab talents attended the swanky after-party, including thesp Khaled Nabawy and Syrian-American director Sam Kadi with immigrant drama “The Citizen,” and Algerian director Moussa Haddad and producer Amina Haddad representing “Harraga Blues,” another immigrant tale.
Jurors mingling in the crowd included producer Cedomir Kolar, Indian actress Shabana Azmi, Iranian actress and director Niki Karimi and Italo film critic Giorgio Gosetti.
This is the first edition of the Abu Dhabi fest held under the management of government-backed media hub twofour54, which also hosted the three-day Abu Dhabi Media Summit, which ended Thursday, attended by, among others, Bill Gates, William Morris Endeavor co-CEO Ari Emanuel, YouTube content chief Robert Kyncl, Viacom Intl. Media Networks CEO Bob Bakish, and many media execs from the Middle East and Asia.
Twofour54, which is headed by former Universal exec Wayne Borg, acts as an industry driver for the region and is making the fest a more integral part.
Fests sixth edition also marks the first headed by Ali Al Jabri who replaced Peter Scarlet as Abu Dhabi topper in July after working closely with Scarlet for three years. Scarlet, formerly a Tribeca chief, came to Abu Dhabi in 2009 and shaped the event.
Jabri is keen on making the event more of launching pad for filmmakers from the region.
Of the 44 titles competing for these prizes, nine involve the UAE as a producing partner and six are backed by the fest’s Sanad fund, including Paris-based Syrian director Hala Alabdalla’s docu “As if We Were Catching a Cobra,” about the struggle of caricature artists in Egypt and Syria for creative freedom.