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Dubai line up includes awards winners from Cannes, Berlin...

The second Dubai International Film Festival begins on Sunday, December 11, and will feature 98 films including features, retrospectives and short films until Saturday, December 17

The award-winning films are from a variety of genres and traditions, from American independent to African contemporary, Chinese drama to German-Lebanese documentary.
An additional seven films are also on the short-list for next year’s Academy Award (Oscar) nominations.

The Festival’s Opening Gala film, Paradise Now, is making its Middle East premiere in Dubai less than 10 months after Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad swept the Berlin Film Festival awards earlier this year, securing the Blue Angel Award for Best European Film, the Amnesty International Film Prize, and the Berliner Morgenpost Readers Prize there.

The thought-provoking film, which follows two Palestinian friends recruited for a strike on Israel and focuses on their last days together, also won the Best Screenwriter prize at last week’s European Film Awards, and is vying for the top spot in the Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Academy Awards.

Paradise Now will open the second Dubai International Film Festival at 8 pm on Sunday, December 11, with subsequent screenings at 3 pm on Monday, December 12, at the Madinat Theatre, and at 11.45 pm on Wednesday, December 14, at Cinestar 7 at the Mall of the Emirates.

In May, the Cannes Film Festival awarded major prizes to another three feature films destined for Dubai – the Cannes Palme d’Or, possibly the most respected international film award, to Belgian drama L’Enfant (The Child), the Cannes Grand Prix to American independent film Broken Flowers and its Best Director award to Michael Haneke for the taut thriller Cache (Hidden).

L’Enfant, which is also a contender for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, tells the story of a young and dysfunctional hustler who sells his baby in an adoption scam, and then sets out to try and undo his callous deed. L’Enfant is the a DIFF gala screening for Tuesday, December 13, at the Madinat Arena and also screens at 7.15 pm on Wednesday, December 14, at Cinestar 5 at Mall of the Emirates; and at 12.45 pm on Thursday, December 15, at the same venue.

Broken Flowers, the new film from celebrated American independent director Jim Jarmusch, stars Bill Murray and Julie Delpy with cameo appearances from Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange. The critically acclaimed film sees Murray confronting both his past and present after he receives a mysterious pink letter from an anonymous former lover who informs him that he has a 19-year-old son. The film will screen at 11.30 pm on Wednesday, December 14, at the Madinat Theatre.

Cache (Hidden) and Haneke also swept last week’s European Film Awards, nabbing the Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Editing, and Critics Award. The film follows the increasing paranoia of a middle-class European family who receive tapes of themselves along with strange, violent drawings from an unknown voyeur. As the gifts become more personal, they appear to be the work of someone who knows the family a little too well. The film will screen at 9.30 pm on Monday, December 12, at Cinestar 1 at the Mall of the Emirates.

Gu Changwei, one of China’s most famous and successful cinematographers, also won the much sought-after Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival this year. His directorial debut, Peacock (Kong Que), portrays the daily life of a family in a small town in the province of Henan, and is scheduled for three DIFF screenings.

Three award-winning African films are also scheduled for multiple DIFF screenings this week, including The Hero, winner of the Best Film Award in the World Cinema Competition at Sundance. The film tells the story of an Angola desperately trying to rebuild itself after a long civil war, and of an amputee war hero who returns home to do the same. Yesterday, the Academy Award nominated story of a young HIV-positive mother, and U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (Carmen in Khayelitsha), winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale, are also included in DIFF’s In Honor of Africa program.

German-Lebanese documentary Massaker, the story of the perpetrators behind the Sabra and Chatila massacres, also received an award at the Berlinale.

Other Oscar 2006 nominees in the DIFF 2005 program include Zozo, the story of a young Lebanese boy torn from his family at the height of the civil war; and the Death of Mr. Lazarescu, the Romanian entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Lavishly animated Japanese feature Howl’s Moving Castle and crowd-pleaser Mad Hot Ballroom are also on the 2006 Oscar short list for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Documentary Feature respectively.


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