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Morgan Freeman returns to Dubai Fest

Morgan Freeman, Adel Imam, Yash Chopra Named as 2005 Honorees for Dubai International Film Festival

Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman, Egyptian comedy superstar Adel Imam and distinguished Indian producer-director Yash Chopra will receive the Dubai International Film Festival’s 2005 honors for distinguished service to the film industry during the December 11 – 17 Festival this year.

The three stars have been named as the Hollywood, Arab and Asian honorees in the Festival’s ‘In the Spotlight’ program, which honors the work of eminent actors, producers and directors from around the world. The program, which was instituted last year with Arab and Asian honorees, was expanded this year to include the American film industry. Two seminal films from each honoree will be showcased as part of the program.

Freeman, who won an Academy Award shortly after his appearance at the inaugural Festival and was most recently featured in the box-office dazzler March of the Penguins, will be making his second visit to Dubai in the next fortnight. Two of his most popular films – the multi-Oscar winning bittersweet comedy Driving Miss Daisy and inspiring prison drama The Shawshank Redemption – are scheduled to screen as part of the tribute.

Peter Scarlet, the DIFF programmer in charge of the Hollywood honoree component, said the quadruple-Oscar nominee Freeman is a uniquely versatile actor with a place in the very top rank of American performers.

“What is especially noteworthy about this award is that although Morgan Freeman’s career in films have earned him universal acknowledgement as one of the top practitioners of his art, he has not been widely honored,” said Scarlet, executive director of the Tribeca Film Festival of New York City and former artistic director of the San Francisco International Film Festival, the oldest film festival in North America. “It is to DIFF’s credit that it has chosen to go down this path. We are proud to welcome Morgan Freeman as DIFF’s first Hollywood honoree.”

Adel Imam, one of the Arab world’s most loved and famous stars, and the king of comedy in the Egyptian film industry, will also be honored as the Festival’s Arab honoree. Imam, a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, is highly regarded for his trademark ability to mix humor and sadness, and for promoting tolerance and justice through his films.

Raouf Tewfik, Director of the Alexandria Film Festival and an esteemed Egyptian cineaste, film critic, scriptwriter and author, said the actor continues to be a trailblazer for the Arab world.

“Adel Imam represents a rare phenomenon for an actor,” Tewfik said. “He was able to keep his position at the top for more than 30 years as one of the most successful comic actors. This is a mark of his talent, his talent of expressing the needs and worries of the everyday person in a sarcastic way. His simple but conscientious roles and the contemporary subjects he takes on have made him the voice of the people, and he has kept his foothold on fame because he is always innovating and improving.”

The two Adel Imam films to be screened during the Festival represent Imam’s talent in discussing hot-button issues with sensitivity and his trademark humor: Embassy in the Building (Sifara Fil Amara), a lighthearted comedy touching on the serious political issue of normalization of relations with Israel; and Terrorism and Kebab (Al Irhab Wal Kabab), a social critique on the phenomenon of terrorism.

Celebrated Indian producer-director Yash Chopra, whose work spans four decades in the industry and has been referred to as the ‘godfather’ of Indian cinema, is the driving force behind such timeless classics as Deewaar, Kabhi Kabhie and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. His box-office smash hit Lamhe and the more recent cross-border drama Veer Zaara will be screened as part of the tribute program.

Hannah Fisher, the DIFF programmer in charge of the Asian honoree component, said Chopra was ‘a Bollywood director who has spread his wings far beyond the beautiful scenery of his films.’

“Yash Chopra is a colossus who straddles three worlds easily, effortlessly and with dignity,” Fisher said. “As a director, he has created some of the biggest box office hits in Indian cinema; as a producer behind such films as DDLJ, his company Yash Raj Films has become an integrated studio offering executive producing, financing and distribution; and a distributor, he is turning around a country that does not have a strong tradition of distribution.”

“He is admired because of his accomplishments as a director, as a producer, and as a canny businessman, who has developed and grown his company to the point where it is the largest in India,” she added. “There are many directors in Mumbai throughout the country who produce spectacular work, but Mr. Chopra is highly revered and has a formidable track record.”

The three stars are expected to arrive in Dubai prior to the opening of the Festival on December 11 – the actual award ceremony will follow within days.

The second Dubai International Film Festival will be held between December 11 and 17, 2005, and will feature 98 films including features, retrospectives and short films. DIFF 2005 is divided into 12 distinct programs - including five brand new sections - each focusing on a particular category of film.

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