The ninth Dubai International Film Festival got underway on Sunday, with a whole lot more to come in the remaining few days.
The ever-growing Arab Gulf state never seems to have its fingers in enough pies, so it was only a matter of time before cinema appeared on the radar. So it came to pass, in 2004, that this part of the world should play host to a celebration of film in the Middle-East, spreading its wings in latter years to act as a platform for talent across Asia and Africa.
So what better choice of picture than Ang Lee’s Life of Pi to open things up? This mesmerising tale, about a boy stranded at sea with just a tiger for company, is the perfect blend of east meets west, to truly reflect what the festival is all about. By the end, ‘Diff’, as it is sometimes abbreviated, will have showcased a total of 158 movies from 61 separate countries, spoken in 43 different languages – it doesn’t get more international than that!
This week saw a new award make its debut at the event, namely the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award. With The Hobbit also imminent, it was perhaps fitting that head of the jury for this latest prize was none other than the Elf Queen Galadriel herself, Cate Blanchett. Coming from Australia, a nation whose own film industry is still developing, she fully appreciated just how much Dubai has been coming on in recent years, as she was “thrilled that such a festival is happening here.”
When you think about it, this part of the world is tailor-made to be a movie backdrop. Awash with rugged, sandy desert, it could be the perfect setting for genres such as westerns and biblical epics. The urban sprawl that is the face of modern Dubai has enough skyscrapers to rival New York any day of the week. You can almost picture Stay Puft, Godzilla, et al, terrorising the streets.
The eight-day extravaganza will come to a close on Sunday 16th December.