THE BLOG
12/09/2012 11:08 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2013

Live From the Dubai International Film Festival: Day 1

Whenever I mention to a friend that I'm heading off to a film festival -- which usually refers to Sundance or Toronto, the two I travel to each year -- the usual response is, "That sounds like fun."

As though I were going on vacation.

Certainly there are vacation-like aspects to these trips: travel, a hotel stay, escaping from your daily routine into a new environment.

On the other hand, when I go to a film festival, I'm usually devoting my time to seeing movies, often four or five a day. And once I'm finished going to movies, I have to spend a couple of hours thinking and writing about what I've just seen.

Still, I admit that, when I was invited to the 9th Dubai International Film Festival, I had to remind myself that I wasn't going on holiday. Yes, there's golf and scuba diving (neither of which are ever distractions at Toronto or Sundance) and sightseeing in a part of the world I've never visited.

But I'm not here to relax. While I may be able, in the coming week, to play hooky occasionally from the movies and see the wonders of Dubai (including a dinner scheduled for Tuesday at At.mosphere, a restaurant near the top of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building), I'm still here covering a film festival.

As with most such festivals, I come in having seen several of the most visible films: Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, Hitchcock, The Master. But in scanning the DIFF schedule, I found more movies than I'll have time to see in a week.

And, unlike Sundance or Toronto, where I'm at least partially devoting time to scouting for films that might work for the film clubs I program, I come to DIFF with no agenda other than to see movies from around the world that seem interesting.

This commentary continues on my website.

Subscribe to the Entertainment email.
Home to your favorite fan theories and the best movie recs.