It's difficult to walk around Dubai without being in constant awe of one's surroundings. The modern city is nothing short of incredible. Built from the ground up within the last 40 years, a main argument it is using to win a World Expo bid in 2020, Dubai seems to boast the biggest and best in the world whether it's fountains, skyscrapers or gold-plated flag poles.
And when it comes to all things grand, the Dubai International Film Festival is no exception. Last year's festival was taken over by Hollywood with the premiere of Mission: Impossible 4, a film complete with Tom Cruise scaling Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. This year's expertly-run festival gave the indies room to breathe, focusing on the massive treasure trove of new talent from the Middle East, Africa, and beyond.
Of course it wouldn't be Dubai without some outrageous parties. Oxfam and Dubai Cares brought the stars out to the Armani Hotel at Burj Khalifa to fundraise for clean water in schools in Tanzania. Rooney Mara and Kristin Davis helped out with an all-night auction. Egyptian actor Amr Waked, who was also awarded Muhr Arab Feature Best Actor for his starring role in the festival's Winter of Discontent, about the recent Egyptian revolution, made a personal appeal to the donors that gathered. Colin Firth and Freida Pinto surprised the crowd by auctioning the clothes off their backs, helping to raise over half a million dollars in total.
Freida Pinto with the man who just bid $18K on her dress for Oxfam.
There was no shortage of big-name pictures. The festival opened with Ang Lee's latest, his 3D blockbuster Life of Pi. The film's stars Suraj Sharma, Adil Hussain and Shivanthi Sainath walked the sparkling red carpet at the impressive Madinat Jumeirah Complex, where the majority of the festival took place. Other top billings included Michael Haneke's intimate story of love in old age, Amour; Anvil helmer Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock; and a closing night gala with Wayne Blair's Aboriginal musical comedy The Sapphires.
Film attendance is up in Dubai.
With the concurrent Dubai Film Market, the city is taking the lead in developing the film industry in the Gulf Region and bringing new Arab voices to the screen. The Dubai Filmmart offered buyers films at their fingertips with a digital screening system via Cinetech. And for the first time, sales agents with films playing were allowed to showcase up to three other films they represented, suggesting a bid to compete with other global film markets.
The Dubai Film Connection brought a feature film and co-production market to the festival, connecting Arab filmmakers with global industry professionals with the goal of increasing production in the region. 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the Dubai International Film Festival, and it's sure to be a year filled with some giant surprises at the road where Arab cinema and Hollywood meet.
Read the full story at Filmmaker Magazine.