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The Dubai International Film Festival in action

Inaugural festival guests expected to attend include Prince Albert of Monaco,
Archbishop Tutu, Morgan Freeman, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Harvey Weinstein, Amitabh Bachchan.

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) today announced the program for its inaugural event which will take place December 6-11, 2004.

The festival will be held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister and the Chairmanship of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of the Emirates Group.

Festival Director Neil Stephenson unveiled a total of 76 films, which include 52 main features, including current works by Danny Boyle, Walter Salles, Michael Winterbottom, Zhang Yimou and Robert Zemeckis, hits from the international circuit including LES CHORISTES and COMME UNE IMAGE from France and a lively collection of debate based titles including THE HAMBURG CELL, CONTROL ROOM, Locarno winner PRIVATE and Simone Bitton’s WALL. Arab cinema, one of the festival’s main showpieces, is represented by 15 features, including the world premiere of Nacer Khemir’s BAB’AZIZ from Tunisia and 16 Arab short films.

The festival will present five red carpet "Dubai Gala Screenings" at the festival’s home and epicenter, Dubai’s stunning new Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort – Dubai. The festival program has been designed to reflect Dubai’s cosmopolitan, tolerant and multi-cultural character, while its centerpiece program, “Operation Cultural Bridge” is dedicated to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan, the country’s founding President. The program’s theme of building cultural bridges through tolerance and intercultural dialogue is fully consistent with Sheikh Zayed’s philosophy as well the long-standing policy of the UAE as a country, a policy set by Sheikh Zayed.

The Opening Gala will be attended by Prince Albert of Monaco and will feature Moroccan director Ismaël Ferroukhi’s LE GRAND VOYAGE. The director will be joined by the film’s actors Nicolas Cazalé and Mohammed Majd.

RED DUST has been selected as the Closing Night film and will be screened in the presence of Archbishop Tutu. The film is the highlight of the “Operation Cultural Bridge” program and marks the feature debut of British director Tom Hooper. Producer Anant Singh and RED DUST stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jamie Bartlett will be attending. Gillian Slovo, on whose novel the film is based, will also be present.

Omar Sharif will be honored with a special retrospective highlighting his importance as an Arab icon. The retrospective will include such classics as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, FUNNY GIRL as well as the more recent MONSIEUR IBRAHIM.

In addition to the Opening and Closing events, the three other galas will include:
• Indian-born Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD as part of the “Bollywood Meets Hollywood” section. Mehta and actors Rahul Khanna and Lisa Ray will be attending.
• Japanese director Takashi Shimizu’s international horror hit THE GRUDGE as part of the “Hi-Tech Hollywood” section with star Sarah Michelle Gellar scheduled to attend.
• Swiss-American director Marc Forster’s FINDING NEVERLAND as part of “Contemporary World Cinema” with Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein expected to attend.

Directors Daoud Abdel Sayed and Subhash Ghai will also be honored as part of the “Directors in the Spotlight” section.

One of Egypt’s most respected cineastes, Daoud Abdel Sayed first emerged as one of the leading talents coming out of the country’s ‘New Realism’ movement in the 1980s. DIFF will be screening two of his classics: KIT KAT (1991) and ARD AL-KHOF (aka Land of Fear, 1999).

From his directorial debut KALICHARAN (1976) Subhash Ghai went on to script and direct over 15 films as well as forming his own production company, Mukta Arts, which is today one of India’s leading production houses. Throughout his career, Ghai has managed to span the gap between popular and artistic cinema, producing blockbusters that are hailed by the critics. As part of the program, DIFF will be screening PARDES (1997) and TAAL (1999), the latter became the first Indian film to break into the US box office top 20.

Abdulhamid Juma, the CEO of Dubai Media City commented: “We are looking forward to the kick-off of our festival, which has been in the planning for the last two years. We hope our festival will provide a valuable public service to Dubai and the UAE and that it will grow in the years ahead to become a center of excellence for Arab and world cinema.”

Festival Director and CEO, Neil Stephenson: “We are very enthused about programming line-up for our festival which we feel is both interesting and diverse. We have aimed to reflect our multi-cultural community in our programming choices as this festival is ultimately for the service of our community. We also look forward to hosting our friends from the international film industry and giving them an opportunity to experience Dubai’s world famous hospitality.”

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