DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The 13th Dubai Intl. Film Festival kicked off Wednesday with Samuel L. Jackson receiving a career award from Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the son of Dubai’s ruler, before tense U.S. political thriller “Miss Sloane” opened the fest with director John Madden in tow.
“I have already campaigned to come back and work in this country,” Jackson said after being greeted with a standing ovation. “Anybody out there who has got a job for a brother, let me know! Anytime you need me, call me. I will see if I can get here,” he added. “Maybe one of my films will be screening here next year.” He will be holding an onstage conversation on Friday.
Also feted with career nods during the opening ceremony were mono-monikered Bollywood star Rekha, and Oscar-winning French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared (“The English Patient”).
Other top international and regional talents sighted strutting down the Madinat Arena red carpet included “Fast and Furious” thesp Tyrese Gibson; Bond girl Olga Kurylenko; Egyptian satirist Bassam Youssef, known as the Jon Stewart of the Arab World; Bollywood stars Ranveer Sing and Vaani Kapoor, in town for the world premiere Thursday of Paris-set Hindi romancer “Befikre”; and Emirati director Ali F Mostafa, whose dystopian thriller “The Worthy” will be having it’s Middle East bow.
DIFF chairman Abdulhamid Juma in his opening remarks noted “the wonderful coincidence” that there are 13 Emirati films screening at the fest’s 13 edition, six of which are features. It’s an indication that the local industry, built from scratch concurrently with the festival, is starting to get some traction.
Films in 40 languages from 55 countries are screening, more than 70 of which are Middle East premiers.
The fest has assembled what looks on paper like a rich Arabic lineup complemented by the cream of the international circuit crop, including U.S. awards hopefuls such as “La La Land,” “Nocturnal Animals,” and “Manchester by the Sea.”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which is launching from Dubai into the Middle East, will close the fest on Dec. 14.