Dubai welcomes cinema’s best to its theatres to take in this year’s finest films from around the globe
For a week in December, cinemagoers will intermingle with internationally renowned actors, directors, and producers, flocking to Dubai as it opens the 13th iteration of its International Film Festival. Once again housed in the Madinat Jumeirah, thousands will arrive to take in the diverse range of pictures on offer, with 134 feature films from 60 countries across diverse genres sure to cater to every cinephile’s palate. Included are 55 world and international premieres, as well as a host of Arab world films, with home talent promotion a key tenant of the festival.
Here, we focus on the Cinema of the World, or more specifically, the 14 early candidates already released for the exhibition of film. With pictures produced in countries ranging from from Japan to Afghanistan on show, international film is truly flourishing and the pre-listing offers a delectable variety. Here are our five to watch out for:
Narrated by Daisy Ridley of recent Star Wars fame, Otto Bell’s newest documentary is wonderfully joyous and uplifting. It follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Mongolian girl who wants nothing more than to become an eagle huntress, but must overcome much adversity on the way given that the custom is traditionally a male-dominated affair. Despite cries from village elders that “women get cold”, nothing phases the unflappable girl, who embarks upon her quest with a soul-warming smile stretching across her face and trains her feathered friend on the Mongolian steppe with such palpable love that one can’t help but grin throughout.
Indigenous Australian director Ivan Sen’s “spiritual sequel” to Mystery Road is a brilliantly produced, socially conscious jewel to watch out for at the Dubai International Film Festival. Aaron Pedersen returns as Jay Swan, visibly more haggard since we last met him, who enters the titular town of Goldstone to follow up a routine missing persons report. What Swan inadvertently stumbles into instead is a vipers’ nest of corruption that revolves around a sex worker racket and the local mine. The genre-defying work is sure to set tongues wagging, if not for its masterful direction, then for its poignant message.
With pictures produced in countries ranging from from Japan to Afghanistan on show, international film is truly flourishing and the pre-listing offers a delectable variety
Delightfully led by Joel Edgerton and, in particular, Ruth Negga, this real-life drama chronicles the battle faced by an interracial couple in Virginia during the 1950s and 60s. Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, wed in Washington in 1958 and promptly return to Viriginia, only to be persecuted by its state law that ultimately saw them ordered to leave for 25 years. The couple do not rebel with the frenzied, explosive reaction that might be expected, but instead show their dissent through unassumingly living together as a family. It is in this that the film flourishes, depicting an average, unspectacular household in a sumptuously understated manner; the Loving’s simply waiting for society to catch up with them.
After the Storm
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to his filmmaking niche in this touching, humorous exploration into the life of a family divided. Hiroshi Abe plays Ryota, a washed-up gambling addict whose only respite from the struggles of life can be found in the time spent with his son, child support payments willing. Kore-eda delves into family dynamics and unfulfilled potential, showing Ryota to be just like his father in both habits as well as temperament. He is afforded a chance at redemption as a typhoon blows into the city, forcing his son and ex-wife to spend the night at his mother’s home. Rather than resolve the issue in a snap as other filmmakers might have, Kore-eda understands that life cannot be perfect, even if we will it to be. He presents everyday family life as it really is, flaws abound, in a warm, compassionate, and poignant manner as no other director can.
French-Malinese filmmaker Daouda Coulibaly makes his feature film debut with a story that has been likened to a West African Scarface. Ladji, played admirably by Ibrahim Koma, is an ambitious 20-year-old prantiké (van-cum-bus driver transporting passengers), who has worked hard for a much-deserved promotion that could help him to keep his sister from having to sell her body, only to be overlooked for the boss’ nephew. In a bout of frustration, he turns to a drug-dealer to call in a favour and becomes embroiled in the drug-running game, spiralling evermore out of control with every echelon voraciously climbed. The tale is told at a frenetic, sweat-inducing pace, without ever losing sight of the political factors surrounding the pre-civil war years of Mali. Coulibaly is certainly one to watch out for.