The 11th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) will open with ‘The Theory of Everything’ – the Stephen Hawking biopic from Academy Award winning director James Marsh.
Starring Eddie Redmayne as the renowned astrophysicist and Felicity Jones as his love, fellow student Jane Wilde, the extraordinary story follows the life of one of the world’s greatest theoretical physicists.
The humorous and heartfelt musical ‘Into the Woods’ an international premiere will close the curtain on the 11th edition of the Festival. Featuring an all star cast including Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine, the film blends classic stories from Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. ‘Into the Woods’ is directed by acclaimed director Rob Marshall.
A total of 118 features, film shorts and documentaries are set to be screened over eight days at this year’s edition; including 55 world and international premieres from 48 countries in 34 languages. These cinematic works of art have been created by both established and upcoming directors and producers.
Abdulhamid Juma, chairman of DIFF, said: “DIFF has come so far in the past 11 years, introducing new audiences to Arab cinema, fostering talent and welcoming the industry’s greatest directors, producers, writers and actors. I am proud to say that DIFF has contributed to putting the region’s film industry on the global map.”
Samr Al Marzooqi, Dubai Film Market manager added: “With each year that passes the quality of films, talent of our actors, and confidence of our directors and producers – as well as everyone working behind the scenes – has grown exponentially. I’m looking forward to meeting our guests, who are set to visit DIFF and see the significant steps taken in the UAE’s film industry for themselves.”
At the opening ceremony, DIFF will present its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to prominent Egyptian actor Nour El-Sherif, for his work on more than 100 films in a career that has spanned almost five decades.
Golden Globe winner and IWC Brand Ambassador Emily Blunt will be joining the jury for the third IWC Filmmaker Award.
The award which offers a $100,000 cash prize to one winning filmmaker will be presented at an event hosted by ‘Official Sponsor’ and ‘Festival-Time’ Partner IWC Schaffhausen on Thursday, December 11th. Last year, UAE director Waleed Al Shehhi received the IWC Filmmaker Award from head of the jury, Cate Blanchett for his project Dolphins which will screen at the Festival this December.
International celebrities flying into Dubai this December include: Emily Blunt, Kelsey Grammer, Paul Bettany, Yilmaz Erdogan, Olga Kurylenko, John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar and Paresh Rawal.
Arab celebrities set to grace the red-carpet include: Nour El-Sherif, Mervat Amin, Samir Sabri, Daoud Abdel Sayed, Laila Taher, Mohamed Sobhi, Lebleba, Jamal Suliman, Hani Ramzi, Lotfy Labib, Tamer Hosny, Karim Abdel Aziz and Bassem Yakhour.
Celebrities from the GCC and UAE include Saad Al-Faraj, Khalid Ameen, Haifaa Hussain, Jamaan Alrowaiei, Maree AlHalyan, Waleed Al Shehhi, Nujoom al-Ghanem, Khalid Albudoor, and Ali F. Mostafa,
A panel of renowned directors will comprise the Muhr Awards jury. The awards aim to recognise talent from the UAE and wider Arab world and have to date highlighted more than 255 cinematic works.
DIFF’s Muhr Feature competition jury will be headed up by Lee Daniels, the multi-talented producer and director of Oscar-winning ‘Precious’ and ‘The Butler’.
He will be joined by Dutch cinematographer and film director Leonard Retel Helmrich, acclaimed Algerian director Malik Bensmail, Oscar nominated actress Virginia Madsen and Lebanese director and actress Nadine Labaki.
The Muhr Shorts and Emirati competition will be headed up by the undisputed legend of Arab cinema, Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Khan. Three of his films have been counted as part of the "100 Best Arab Films" of all time and his latest film Factory Girl (Fatat el Masnaa) enjoyed its world premiere at last year's DIFF.
He will be joined by Palestinian director Cherien Dabis and Emirati screenwriter Mohammed Hassan Ahmed.
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, DIFF Artistic Director, said: “The groundbreaking works entered into the reputable Muhr Awards this year have proven the fruits of our labour over the past 11 years. The number of entries has increased in line with the caliber of the works, which has simultaneously raised the reputation of both the Awards and the region’s filmmakers, bringing together the Arab world’s greatest cinematic minds. I look forward to this year’s incredible feature film, documentary and shorts line-up.”
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On December 14th DIFF will partner with Dubai Cares for the fourth year in a row, who will this year will be presenting The Global Gift Gala in association with Marina Home Interiors as the official charity Gala of DIFF, with honorary Chair Eva Longoria and Founders Alina Peralta and Maria Bravo.
The Global Gift Gala will be supporting The Eva Longoria Foundation – which provides education and entrepreneurship opportunities to women – Sunrise K Foundation, which raises awareness of childhood glaucoma and the Global Gift Foundation ensuring no child will starve.
DIFF established the Dubai Film Market (DFM) in 2007, taking its commitment to supporting regional films one step further. To date it has supported more than 240 projects, many of which have gone on to receive regional and international acclaim for their works. The DFM aims to widen the choice of Arab films shown to audiences; raise the profile of Arab films across the world; increase opportunities for the sale and distribution of Arab films; and help make the regional film industry more sustainable.
Shivani Pandya, DIFF managing director, said: “Through the DFM we support filmmakers at different stages of their journey, taking them on to their ultimate goal: to show their works to the world. I am thrilled to see 17 films supported by Enjaaz, the market’s post-production and production support programme in the line-up this year.
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"Our ties with both regional and international industry professionals have to date provided numerous opportunities for the region’s filmmakers, and I’m happy to say their visits often result in global partnerships. We look forward to welcoming the ever-keen audiences here in the UAE and the many fabulous venues at which DIFF will be held; in particular the free public screenings that will be held at The Beach, JBR.”
These free public screenings will be held as a way of saying thank you to DIFF’s audiences for their support over the years as well as providing an opportunity for UAE fans to see global cinematic works absolutely free of charge. ‘The Beach’, opposite JBR is a popular place to watch the sun set on the horizon, while enjoying an open-air screening amid warm breezes.
DIFF cinemagoers and movie peers from around the world will be treated with numerous Red Carpet Gala screenings throughout the week at DIFF’s purpose built state-of-the-art screening venue the Madinat Arena. These screenings will kick off with ‘The Water Diviner’ – Russell Crowe’s anticipated directorial debut, on Thursday 11th December followed by ‘Dearest’, a deeply moving Chinese true-story drama from Peter Ho-sun Chan.
Friday 12th will present a triple bill of galas beginning with ‘Paper Planes’ a touching family drama from Robert Connolly, followed by ‘Boychoir’ a crowd pleasing musical from François Girard starring Dustin Hoffman, and closing the day is ‘Dolphins’, from Emirati director Waleed Al Shehhi, which won the IWC Filmmaker Award (2013) after being supported by Enjaaz in cooperation with Watani and Filmi.
DIFF’s second Children’s Red Carpet Gala, ‘Santa Claus’ is a festive film for the whole family directed by Alexandre Coffre and begins proceedings on Saturday 13th. The evening gala’s start with ‘Escobar Paradise: Lost’ the directorial debut of Andrea Di Stefano starring Benicio del Toro and is followed by ‘The Sleeping Tree’, by Mohammed Rashed Buali, which was short-listed for the 2012 IWC Filmmaker Award and was supported by Enjaaz.
‘Out of the Ordinary’ – the latest feature that has got the film world talking from prolific Egyptian director Daoud Abdel Sayed – will screen on Sunday 14th. Monday 15th will enjoy two screenings: ‘Wild Tales’, from director Damián Szifrón, which has been selected as the Argentine entry for the Best Foreign Language Film; and ‘Cairo Time’ from Amir Ramses, starring cinematic legend Nour El-Sherif who will this year be honoured with the DIFF Lifetime Achievement Award. The highly anticipated ‘The Imitation Game’ directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley showcases on Tuesday 16th.
The 11th edition of DIFF will see films being screened over 8 days at the Madinat Jumeirah Arena, Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah and VOX Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates.