London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The tenth Dubai International Film Festival kicked off on Friday with the screening of Palestinian thriller Omar. Distinguished guests included Hollywood stars such as Cate Blanchett and Martin Sheen, along with the film’s director Hany Abu Assad, and cast members Adam Bakri, Eyad Hourani and Waleed Zuaiter also in attendance.
Omar, which was the only Arab film to be showcased at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a powerful psychological drama set against the backdrop of the difficult situation in the West Bank. The film has been described by the festival’s organizaers as a look at “love, friendship and betrayal among a group of Palestinian friends living on different sides of the contentious Israeli separation barrier.”
The prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards were also presented during the opening night of the Dubai Film Festival. Awards were presented to well-known Egyptian journalist and film historian Samir Farid, viewed as a pioneer of film criticism in the Arab world, and multiple Emmy and Golden Globe winner Martin Sheen. The star of Apocalypse Now and The West Wing is also scheduled to hold an onstage Q & A session about his career on Sunday.
Dubai International Film Festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma said: “Last night’s opening ceremony was tremendously exciting, commenting the festival’s tenth year of amazing cinema.”
“We look forward to giving our international guests and faithful Dubai audiences the best festival yet over the next eight days. The result of a decade’s work by an extremely dedicated team, this year’s program truly epitomizes our stated mission of bridging cultures and meeting minds.”
The festival is set to showcase a number of eagerly anticipated films over the next week, including Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom, and Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace, among others.
This year’s festival will also screen a number of big-name Arab films, including Cherien Dabis’s May in the Summer and Rock The Casbah by Laila Marrakchi, starring Omar Sharif and Nadine Labaki. Haifaa Al-Mansour, the Saudi director of the critically acclaimed Wadjda, is also attending the film festival, serving as a jury member for the Arab Feature section award.
The Dubai film festival has grown dramatically since its inception in 2004, celebrating its tenth anniversary with a total of 70 international movie premieres. Events on the sideline of the festival include the World Premier Cinematic Innovation Summit, In Conversation with Martin Sheen, and the Dubai Cares & Oxfam Charity Event.
The festival runs through December 14, showcasing a total of 174 films, more than 100 of which are from the Arab world.