I landed in Dubai on 24th November to be with my husband. As a travel blogger would have it, I had my plans and that was to spend the month exploring it slow and solo. Two years ago, when I was here I had done all the touristy things from the ‘top of Burj Khalifa’ to the ‘Desert Safari’ but this time I wanted to do the old and the authentic. And as planned, for the first week I kept away from the new construction, high-rise buildings and high-end malls. I walked around and explored Dubai Creek, Souqs, Bastakiya, Musuems, Culture Foundations etc but while I was enjoying Dubai’s old town, I was also keeping my eyes on the Dubai International Film Festival’s twitter handle. Here is the inside story of finally landing up at #DIFF15 and all that’s happening there.
The film festival was being talked about by my friends too but I was not sure if this was the place for me because I do not write movie reviews on my blog. For me, it has always been books, food or travel posts. The truth is I love watching movies and I am an absolute Bollywood (Hindi Cinema) person. May be this was the reason why I was itching to be at the film festival. In my college days, I would always watch English movies that were recommended by friends, so in a way I have always loved a curated list. When I went through the list of movies to be screened here, I was totally in for it. No less, in its 12th year, the festival is proudly screening 134 films from 60 countries – including 55 world premieres. Yes, some of the movies promised amazing stories. There is another twist to the whole story and that is I am a big Shahrukh Khan fan and he was also expected to come for Dubai International Film Festival, so I was doubly excited.
I applied for the press accreditation and to my surprise my blog was approved in less than 24 hours. Does it sound dreamy? Yes, it was! I was told to come over to Madinat Jumeirah Conference Hall on 8th December to collect my badge. I had no clue where it was but when there is Google map, one really doesn’t has to worry much. I sorted out my directions. A blogger friend from India (Ruchi More) is living in Sharjah these months and she agreed to accompany me. I am really glad she did because it became easy to apply two heads to some of the things that would have been difficult to handle alone. We got down at Mall of Emirates Metro station and made our way to the Madinat Jumeirah. Generally people take a taxi to be there but we decided to walk because it was a lovely, warm and windy afternoon and we wanted to get a hang of the area.
The DIFF sign boards were placed on the pavements. They guided us well and confirmed us at that we were headed on the right path. While we walked, we also did not forget to pose. The building, on the right, all in white is the world’s most luxurious hotel. Yes, the distinctive sail-shaped silhouette is that of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. It stands synonymous to luxury in literal sense. I have never been inside but I do wish to go in there someday definitely. While we were there, we soon realized that our destination and the Arabian resort, Madinat Jumeirah was just adjacent to it.
Standing close to Burj Al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah, the Arabian Resort of Dubai is a beauty in itself. With two luxurious hotels, it has its own private beach too. It has been the venue for the Dubai Film Festival for consecutive years now. A day before, I had read about it and so I must inform that it the largest resort in the emirate set like a Arabian town. It has a souq inside which houses lovely shops and around restaurants. When we walked in, we were really pleased to see the beautiful inside and we promised to ourselves that we would cover it well but later. Thus, without getting distracted much, we made our way to the Madinat Arena where I was supposed to get the press badge.
Madinat Arena– This is the place to be if you are planning to catch up the Red carpet events or the Gala screenings. The Dubai Film Market is buzzing here these days. The best of Arab film industry and the celebrities around the world are here. I didn’t know anything when I walked in here that day but later the experience has been amazing. That day, I was directed to the registration windows and asked to stand in a queue. The press and publicity office was nearby and we could see the preparations for the festival were going on war footing. The queue was long. I joined it and waited patiently until I was called for my turn. The process was really smooth. Since I had already filled the form and it had been approved, I only had to show my passport. I was handed over the badge, a coupon to grab the Dubai film festival bag and the schedule for the rest of the days to come. This was the start to thrilling and starry days ahead..
By the time I got the badge and my friend got her own too, it was already dark. We were curious to look around and we excitedly did before starting back for home. The weather is one of the best in Dubai these days and trust me we were loving it under the cloudy sky. Together we were super excited to catch up the filmy fever in the days to come. As social media buffs, it was our turn to create buzz about one of the most prestigious events of Dubai. I had also read that Emirati film scene was growing and the film makers were really looking forward to the festival. This indicated that rich tradition of story telling in the UAE was confidently finding its way to visual story telling. — Stated in SCREEN
Madinat Jumeirah looked beautiful in the night. It is build on a huge land area and needs enough time in hand to explore. Since we were supposed to return to this venue for the next eight days, we postponed the walk-around for later. But I have enough pictures to write a post on ‘ A peek into the preparations of the Film Festival’. It was fun to see it all happen, the laying down of the red carpet and the setting up of the lights.
On the next day i.e. the first day of the film festival, I reached Madinat Theatre at 2 p.m. to catch up the press screening of the movie ‘BILAL’. I wanted to watch this film because I love animated movies and secondly I was curious around the first feature animation film that has been entirely developed and produced in Dubai. Moreover, it was inspired by true events of a real hero. Now, that I have seen it, I must say if you get a chance, do watch it. It is a lovely piece of animation. The animated characters come out really well and the story has a deep message.
The path was set, the carpet beamed in red and the press waited for the people. At 5 p.m. the doors had opened for the media to take their positions. Yes, it was the OPENING CEREMONY time. I was super excited because this was a new experience entirely.
Infinite Perspectives is the theme of the festival this year, I am absolutely loving the variety in the films that have been chosen for screening. Thus, they say cinema is a great way to bridge gaps between countries, cultures and people. Also, it has been rightly said that its important to travel and pick on something new each day. For me this event is going to be one of the highs of my travel to Dubai this time.
First the videographers took their positions, then the photographers and finally we bloggers found our space. Yes, we all had enough to ourselves. And I quite liked it because the spots were numbered and it was planned out really well. My camera is screwed up these days but even without a camera, I am no less a blogger. I love churning out stories and I am glad I am doing it well. I do miss the high resolution pictures but till I buy a new camera, I must pat the back of my smartphones because they are really doing well.
So I told you about the numbers, here it is how it goes. The press is important and thus they have the vantage points. I am sure nobody talks beyond the celebrities and the red carpet stories but since I am part of the press here, I really want to share these minute details. And here I have made friends with people from different places across the world. I have met people from Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, New York, London and more. And yes there are students of Manipal University, Dubai too who are covering the Dubai Film Festival in its glorious best. I have made friends with couple of them who hail from India.
And now lets talk about the first evening of the first day. The Red carpet saw both young and old stars walk the red carpet at the opening of the Dubai International Film. From the Creed star Michael B Jordan to Academy Award winning actor and star of Jaws, Richard Dreyfuss to Bollywood’s one-of-the-best Naseeruddin Shah to iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve to many more iconic and budding stars, the red carpet graciously welcomed them all with cheers and warmth.
In all these days, I have not failed to notice that the Arab swagger has been at its best. No doubt, the line up of the celebrities has been exciting, the guests who have been attendeding the festival have come up dressed in their awesome best. The Gala Screenings have seen people walk in huge numbers and it was addictive to see the fashionable Dubai gathered all at one place.
Mr. Shah, one in the picture above has some of the best performance up his sleeves and yet he was easily accessible. He talked to the media, to the students and with everyone who had a relevant question to ask him. I said a ‘Hello’ to him and I was really happy when he responded to it with a warm smile. To the others who asked him, ‘How are you feeling to be here?’, he said, very good but please ask me something else. One of the students Disha asked, ‘Is the movie ‘Waiting’, the film that Bollywood has been waiting for this year? This was indeed a lovely question!
The Gala screening really stands for its name. This was my first experience in this theater and it was fabulous. Before the movie started, the lifetime achievement awards were given out to the selected few. It was a super proud moment to see iconic actor Mr. Naseeruddin Shah from India receive the award. He was also here for his movie ‘Waiting’ which was screened on the third day. I did get a chance to see it and I must say its a different movie which talks about waiting outside an ICU in the hospital and in the run teaches us to handle pain and suffering and of course, the realities of life.
The movie, Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson was absolutely gripping and heart-wrenching. I cried my heart out. It was tough to see the young mother and his son’s tale and their escape from their captor. It is based on the novel by Emma Donoghue. The movie stars Brie Larson and young talent Jacob Trembly were fabulous. The young and super cute, little star walked the red carpet too.
Majid Al Ansari’s psychological thriller Rattle The Cage (Zinzana) kept me on the edge-of-my-seat. The police officer played by Ali Suliman is a brilliant performance. Its a fantastic thriller but its brutal too. The film has already been well received at BFI London Film festival and The Fantastic Fest in Austin. If it had not been the film festival, I would have never picked up so much about Arab cinema too. I am glad I am doing it. Later, on the next day I also watched Waiting and then Peanuts. The latter has also won a Global Globe nomination in the animation category and of course it a beautiful film if you have loved Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
The star cast of the movie- ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’. After catching up with the scene at the Red carpet where Dev Patel was the most wanted one, I rushed to the theater to catch up the Gala Screening. You must take me seriously when I say that the movie is brilliant. The movie is based on the life and work of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Watch it for him.
In last four days, I have seen 7 beautiful movies- BILAL, ROOM, WAITING, ZINZANA, PEANUTS, MIRA’s MAGICAL CHRISTMAS and THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY. The reviews will come on the blog soon. And as luck would have it, I did get a chance to see Mr. Shahrukh Khan walk at the Red carpet. Lots of stories will follow. Keep watching the space.
Apart from Madinat Arena and Madinat Theatre, films are also showing at Mall of the Emirates. There are also free screenings taking place at The Beach. For the tickets and schedule, catch the buzz at dubaifilmfest.com.
Keep following my updates on @manjulika5