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Western Drama, Hostiles, To Get Dubai Film Fest Rolling

Set in the last days of the native race's struggle to retain their home and hearth, the movie captures the bloodshed and brutality in their complexity.

Gautaman Bhaskaran | News18.com

Updated:December 6, 2017, 12:31 PM IST
This evening, the 14th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival begins its eight-day roll with Scott Cooper's Western drama, Hostiles. Christian Bale plays an army captain in charge of escorting a Native American chief back to his homeland. Set in the last days of the native race's struggle to retain their home and hearth, the movie captures the bloodshed and brutality in their complexity.

As the Chairman of the Festival, Abdulhamid Juma, averred: “The story happened in 1872, but it really speaks to a contemporary audience and reflects what is happening in the world today in terms of violence and rejection of others. It’s a dark, strong film but it has a lot of hope in it. I like the message that there is always hope regardless of what happens around you.”

His words seem so apt in the context of what is happening in the Middle East today. Some weeks ago, we saw the massacre of over 300 people in Sinai, and, for months, we have been seeing the tension in the region with the blockade of Qatar by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt. They allege that Qatar is sponsoring terrorism.

dubai-1Image: Youtube/ A still from Hostiles

Hostiles is one of the 140 movies from 51 countries that will be screened over the next eight days -- with the Festival ending with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Of these titles, 50 will be world and international premieres, 59 will be seen for the first time in MENA (Middle East North Africa). This is undoubtedly impressive, and will help Dubai fly higher.

With the Abu Dhabi Film Festival having wound up, with the one in Marrakech deciding not to hold its annual December event this time, and with Cairo facing its own political uncertainties, Dubai must be feeling like a king. But, but the inaugural El Gouna Film Festival on the Red Sea coast of Egypt in September – run by someone as experienced and nuanced as Intishal Al Timimi (who was part of the Abu Dhabi theme) – can become a stiff competitor to Dubai in the years to come.

However, the Managing Director of the Dubai International Film Festival, Shivani Pandya, feels that “we haven’t really been impacted by any of these developments... El Gouna’s timing in September works well with our schedule. We haven’t felt we’re competing for titles or not got what we wanted. Our attitude has always been that the more platforms for Arab cinema the better.” Indeed.

In fact, Dubai has always made a special effort to be an effective platform for Arab cinema. This year is no exception. Fifty-nine productions from the Arab world will play across four competitions, spanning Arab, Gulf and short and feature formats, and two non-competitive sidebars, The Beach and Arabian Nights.

There are 18 contenders in the Muhr Feature Competition, including seven world premieres. These range from Emirati director Nujoom Alghanem’s Sharp Tools, about the late Gulf artist Hassan Sharif, to Iraqi-Canadian filmmaker Baz Shamoun’s 73 Degrees Celsius, which follows three Iraqi children whose lives change after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

dubai-film-fest-2Image: Youtube/ A still from Hostiles

Highlights outside Competition include UK-Tunisian director Claire Belhassine’s The Man Behind The Microphone, which revolves around the director's discovery that her grandfather was the iconic singer, Hedi Jouini, while the Arabian Nights programme features a number of festival hits including Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s Beauty And The Dogs and Algerian helmer Karim Moussaoui’s Until The Birds Return.

Also not to be missed is the fact that Dubai has often been the showcase for Oscar runners. This year's hopefuls in the Festival line-up include Darkest Hour, Downsizing and The Shape Of Water, as well as foreign-language submissions The Square, Wajib and A Gentle Creature. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will also be out here in force, with its new president, John Bailey, talking on the organisation's activities.

(Author, commentator and film critic Gautaman Bhaskaran is now covering the Dubai International Film Festival)
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