A Voyage Through Cinema: The Gulf Film Festival Kicks Off in Dubai

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By E. Nina Rothe

The 5th annual Gulf Film Festival begins today, screening 155 films from 40 nations through the 16th of April. All showings are free and open to the public at Grand Cinemas, Dubai Festival City and the festival is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).

This year’s festival reaches new heights, with its extensive world programme and an event schedule that includes a masterclass with Behrouz Vossoughi – one of Iran’s most legendary actors – a series of Gulf Nights – midnight sessions of debate and dialogue in true ‘Khaleeji’ spirit – the Gulf Script Market for Short Films and a series of 37 short films from the region titled ‘Cherries of Kiarostami’, the results of last year’s Festival masterclass with internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. And of course, plenty of entertainment for the younger audiences, with animated films, shorts and a special ‘Films for Children section for them and those young-at-heart adults.

tora bora
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A few films have been on my radar, including the opening night selection Tora Bora, a film from Kuwait, directed by Walid Al Awadi. Tora Bora tells the story of Abu Tarek and Umm Tarek when they set off on a brave journey to search for their youngest son Ahmed, who has been brainwashed by extremists and has decides to leave Kuwait for Afghanistan.

Then there’s the Iraqi/Netherlands/UK co-production In My Mother’s Arms by Atia Al Daradji and Mohammed Al Daradji about modern hero Husham who works tirelessly to build the hopes, dreams and prospects of the 32 damaged children of war, kids under his care in a small orphanage in Baghdad’s most dangerous district.

sea nation
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Sea Shadow from the UAE, directed by Nawaf Al-Janahi, an audience favorite at this year’s ADFF, is set in a small seaside village in the UAE and follows teenagers Mansour and Kaltham as they struggle with tradition and convention in their journey towards adulthood.

A Falcon, A Revolution is a 6-minute film (premiered at this year’s DTFF) packed with momentous meaning and contemporary themes. A Qatari production, the film directed by Jassim Al Romaihi and Mohamed Rezwan Al Islam draws a parallel between falcons and governments. It also raises the important point of “Halal money”, in a modern world where often citizens are made to choose between what is right for their country and what is right for their own principles.

An Italian/Iraqi/UAE co-production, Silence: All Roads Lead to Music is a documentary directed by Haider Rashid. The film focuses on a musician, who has left the stage 15 years before, and travels across the Mediterranean island of Sicily to put together ‘The Silence Project’, an unusual combination of ethnic and classical musicians, from all different backgrounds, who meet and play for the first time during an Arab Film Festival.

Also in the Documentary section, Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai directed by Katy Chang is a funny yet poignant look at three artists as they come to terms with the truth and the artificial. Hand-drawn animations interplay with live footage as art and life are intertwined to portray the artists’ journey on their quest for culture.

uncle nashaat
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Finally, this year’s Gulf Film Festival Country in Focus is Jordan, with featured shorts like Fugue by Sarah Kaskas, Obour (A Crossover) by Thouraya Hamda and Mohammad Hushki, Emergence by Katia Al-Tal and the documentary feature Uncle Nashaat, by Aseel Mansour, which tells the story of a Palestinian resistance fighter, who was killed by the Israelis in 1982, and his nephew Aseel’s search for the truth.

For more info about the Gulf Film Festival, and a complete schedule of films and events, check out www.GulfFilmFest.com.

E. Nina Rothe is a writer and avid world traveler who was born in Florence, Italy and is currently based in New York City, US. She has contributed articles on world cinema and culture to various media outlets including Bespoke, Chic Today, elan, EGO, Tehelka and AVS TV. She has also been an on-air reporter covering film festivals including Toronto, New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, and Doha TFF, plus NY Fashion Week, all the while interviewing Bollywood and Hollywood personalities. Nina currently writes for the Huffington Post US and Tatler Homes Singapore. Her passion is cinema with a conscience. Check out her personal website theajnabee.com

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