– by William Mullally –
Dubai has had many successes, but it has also had its fair share of failures. For every Emirates Airline, there is a Marvel Comics Theme Park that never got past the planning stages. The Dubai International Film Festival, now in it’s 8th year, can categorically be called a success. It does everything it should: it brings A-list stars from around the world to meet their fans in the Middle East, it allows film people to mingle with each other, causing more projects to come to fruition in the region, and it puts a spotlight on the sorely underappreciated Middle Eastern film scene. Without the Dubai Film Fest, many great films from Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, etc. would never be able to find their audience. Here, filmmakers have a chance to show their work, and audiences have a chance to meet and share thoughts with those who create wonderful films. With more than 150 films shown, as well as many varied events and talks, there was indeed something for every kind of film lover. As film lovers ourselves, Discord was on the scene. More coverage is soon to come, but for now, see some of what the fest had to offer.
Werner Herzog was one of three to be given the Lifetime Achievement Award at this years fest, and, in this writers opinion, there’s no director alive more deserving. The humble, passionate and brilliant director was on hand to speak with anyone who approached him, happy to share ideas and hear thoughts.
James Bobin, known to his more mature audiences at the man who co-created Flight of the Conchords and the characters of Ali G, Borat and Bruno, visited Dubai to show hundreds of excited children his new film The Muppets, written by and starring How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel. “I realized one day that my daughter didn’t know Kermit. She didn’t know Miss Piggy. She didn’t know The Muppets! Something had to be done about that, and that’s why I made this film.”
Owen Wilson, star of…well do I have to even say? He was in town to accept the Entertainer of the Year Award, and, after the fantastic Midnight In Paris, the award was richly deserved. Owen happily answered dumb questions for an hour, and never seemed the larger-than-life movie star. He came off exactly as he does in films—likeable, awkward, and completely down to earth.
The Descendants, the new film by Alexander Payne starring George Clooney, was certainly one of the highlights of the festival. The writer/director of Election and Sideways was on hand to show this audience his latest film, and, from everyone I talked to, it was the only film I didn’t hear one negative word about. Funny, moving, and superbly well told, we were lucky to be able to see it in such a beautiful setting. The beautiful young 20 year old star Shailene Woodley also made the trip out to the desert, and seemed delighted to be able to share her breakout role with a different part of the world.
More highlights of the fest were the nightly showings of music related films on the beach, shown on a gigantic inflatable screen with an excellent sound system. There’s nothing quite like relaxing on a giant bean bag next to a few friends, your senses completely engrossed in Sigur Ros’ latest concert documentary INNI for an evening.