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Curtain Rises on Second Dubai Film Festival

International and regional film stars, industry leaders and filmmakers from around the world expected to grace tonight’s red carpet opening gala

Months of planning and preparation will culminate in grand style tonight as international celebrities, regional stars and UAE VIPs walk up an 80-metre long red carpet and into the Madinat Jumeirah Arabian Resort at 8pm Sunday (December 11, 2005), to officially open the second Dubai International Film Festival.

Lit up by sky trackers and a state-of-the-art lighting system, the 800-plus VIP guests including a contingent of Hollywood film stars led by veteran actor Morgan Freeman, and a constellation of Arab stars headed by Egyptian icon Adel Imam will be welcomed to the Festival headquarters and the opening gala screening by Festival Chairman HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of the Emirates Group.

Other celebrities expected to grace tonight’s red carpet include Laurence Fishburne, Diane Kruger, Hugh Dancy, Terence Stamp, Constantin Costa-Gavras, Alan Ladd Jr., Michael Caton Jones, Joshua Jackson, Noor Sherif, Yousra, Hanan Turk, Mona Zaki, Hind Sabri, Faudel, Deepa Mehta, Subhash Ghai and Sumner Redstone.

Redstone, described as one of the most powerful media moguls of the late 20th century, is owner and CEO of Viacom Inc, and controls an empire that eclipses Paramount Pictures television and motion pictures; a battery of cable television networks including MTV and Showtime, and a number of radio and television stations and distribution services.

“We at the Festival have been looking forward to this moment for the last 11 months, and so tonight (Sunday) is an especially exciting time for us,” DIFF Director and CEO Neil Stephenson said yesterday (Saturday). “It gives us great satisfaction to kick off what we hope will be both a very memorable week for the film industry and for Dubai and the UAE, and an event that all of us in this community can be proud of.”

“We have tried to make the 2005 Festival stronger, larger, more diverse and more accessible than our inaugural edition, but it retains its original goals of bridging cultures through film and showcasing the best of Arab cinema for the rest of the world,” Stephenson added. “Dubai has always been a crossroads, a place where the rest of the world comes to meet and do business. Starting tonight, it will also be a place where the rest of the world comes to share their love of film and talk about important world issues.”

Sunday’s official opening will begin with a moment of silence in memory of the late President, HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to whom the Festival’s centerpiece program “Operation Cultural Bridge” is permanently dedicated. After a welcome by HH Sheikh Ahmed, Festival Director Neil Stephenson will introduce the director and cast of the opening gala film, Paradise Now, prior to the screening of the film.

Special holding areas have been set-up around the Festival epicenter at Madinat Jumeirah to allow members of the public to see the red carpet action first-hand. The event will also be covered live on the Dubai Eye radio station, and will be broadcast later on the dedicated free-to-air Showtime channel DIFF TV.

Tickets to the Festival have been selling fast, with more than 40 screenings reaching standby-only status, and requests for tickets coming in from as far as Germany. This year’s larger and more diverse Festival includes 98 films from 46 countries and six continents, with new program sections dedicated to cinema from Europe, East Asia and Africa, the UAE, and emerging filmmakers from the Arab world.

The Festival is expected to be the focus of all eyes on Sunday, and in coming days, with more than 1,000 members of the international, regional and local press and industry registered as participants.

Hundreds of technical and administration staff assembled from around the world and a diverse army of multi-lingual volunteers featuring a strong contingent from the UAE’s schools and universities will also swing into action today, to ensure the best possible experience for Festival-goers. More than 350 volunteers and special DIFF teams are in place from the airport to the multiple screening venues, with opportunities still available for anyone seeking to be part of this international event.

At a DIFF Steering Committee meeting on Thursday, the heads of the different Festival management and administration teams reported full readiness on all operational aspects. Every inch of film has been checked, every screening venue prepared and fine-tuned to the level of international Festival standards, and every imaginable comfort and security detail included in the run-up to tonight’s opening.

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