- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Despite an alarming debt crisis, Dubai is rolling out the red carpet with its usual splendor for movie stars as the Gulf state’s sixth annual film festival kicks off on Wednesday.

Matt Dillon, Christopher Lambert, Mandy Moore, Christina Ricci and Omar Sharif will lead the parade of Hollywood actors at the opening of the Dubai International Film Festival, held at the glittery Madinat Arena, part of the luxurious Madinat Jumeirah resort.

Bollywood will be represented by Indian screen legend Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek, in addition to Ranbir Kapoor, while Arab stars attending include Khaled El Sawy, Mostafa Fahmi, Ilham Shaheen and Sumaia al-Khashab.

The Dubai spectacle features 168 films from 55 countries, with some being shown for the first time worldwide.

“Most of the stars play in the films that will be presented in this edition,” festival President Abdulhamid Juma told reporters, highlighting the event’s ambition to become a link “between different cultures.”

The festival convenes against a backdrop of Dubai’s severe financial crisis, triggered by the emirate’s alert last month that it needs to freeze debt repayments for its largest conglomerate, Dubai World - liable for a staggering $59 billion.

Fears Dubai would default on the debt rocked global markets and sent shares in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates tumbling.

Nevertheless, the extravaganza will go ahead in Dubai, whose festival has become an international event since its debut in 2003 despite challenges from film fests in nearby Abu Dhabi and Doha.

This year, the show opens with Rob Marshall’s “Nine” - based on Federico Fellini’s 1963 classic “8 1/2” - and starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren and Marion Cotillard.

“Avatar,” the new science-fiction flick from “Titanic” filmmaker James Cameron, will get a screening on Dec. 15 - three days before it hits American movie theaters.

The first long film directed by an Emirati to make it onto the festival list is the “City of Life,” made by Ali F. Mostafa.

In the multilingual feature film, set in Dubai, the paths of a privileged Emirati man, a disillusioned Indian taxi driver and a European woman collide, and they irrevocably impact one another’s lives. British actor Jason Flemyng also is in the movie.

Among the festival’s documentaries are “Budrus,” taking its title from a village in the West Bank threatened to be wiped out by Israel’s separation barrier.

Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha, the movie follows the peaceful struggle by Palestinians and Israeli civilians to stop the wall.

The best films of this edition will we awarded with “Muhr” or stallion prizes with a total value of 575,000.

The Dubai festival also will honor Bollywood legend Mr. Bachchan and famous Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, who is dubbed “the lady of the Arab screen.”

The festival also has dedicated a prize for a film that should be focused on defending human rights.

An auction will be held during a gala dinner organized for the third year to raise funds for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

Queen Noor of Jordan is expected to attend the dinner, where a collection from fashion designer and artist Karl Lagerfeld will be auctioned, along with jewels from Cartier.

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