December 9th to the 16th, might be the favorite days of this year for all the film fanatics here in the city of Dubai. With Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) starting film lovers can finally quench their thirst of wanting to watch either feature films or documentaries created by talented people from all around the globe.

On December the 9th the red carpet was laid out in Madinat Arena Jumeirah to welcome a vast number of film directors, actors, viewers and a worldwide press. DIFF screened more than 300 international films, of which 25 were Emirati productions. This overwhelming annual event attracted many famous celebrities such as Mandy Moore, Christina Ricci and the very much loved Gerard Butler, who held a workshop all about industry films. A big number of Bollywood actors graced the red carpet this year. Ranbir Kapoor came for the premiere of his movie Rocket Singh, whereas Amitah Bachan was given the award of appreciation in the opening ceremony. One well-known maven Arab celebrity who attended as well was the Lebanese legend Omar Al Shareef, and of course I cannot forget the many Gulf film stars who gave DIFF the Arabic feeling and touch.

Now let's getting talk about the it movie of DIFF this year that got everyone blown away, The City of Life. This amazing Emirati movie, directed by Ali Mustafa, is the first Emirati movie produced for an international audience. The film is 97 minutes long and consists of Arabic/English/Hindi dialogue.

Ali Mustafa, who won 'Best Emirati Filmmaker' at the 4th Dubai International Film Festival 2007, chose the name City of Life as to represent the city Dubai; the very lively city. The movie revolves around many issues that occur in Dubai, concerning the nationals as well as the expats. The movie stars Soud Al Kaabi and Ahmed Abdulla, the well-known national TV presenters, they play Faisal and Rashid the main characters of one of the many stories in the City of Life. Sonu Sood plays the role of the modest Indian taxi driver who dreams big. The famous actress Natalie Dormer, known for her part in the Golden Globe winning series the Tudors, plays a main character in Mustafa's film. With this fantastic and well-known cast Mustafas film caught the attention of many.

The plot revolves around three lives of different characters. First comes the rich Emirati Faisal, who had just graduated from college, but never bothered to apply for a job and gather his life together. Faisal's friend Khalfan isn't as privileged as him and is sort of a troublemaker dragging Faisal down with him. The second story is about the European female flight attendant who searches for love yet finds something else at the end. Last but not least, comes the Indian taxi driver who resembles a Bollywood star greatly and tries to achieve similar success, but numerously fails in his attempts to stardom. These three lives eventually yet, unexpectedly collide and impact each other.

The cinematography of the movie is mind-blowing! Mustafa  strongly delivered the Emirati essence in this movie. For example, he filmed the most visited areas in Dubai such as Jumeira Street and the famous AlIjaza Cafeteria, where the Indian waiter comes up to Faisal's car and offers him the variety of cocktail juices with different funny names such as Millennium, Burj Al Arab, etc‚ something that all Emiratis laugh about. One of the most thrilling scenes was filmed in Al Badayer area in Dubai, where most of Emirati boys hang out with their cars and motorcycles. The scene pictures Faisal and his friends daring each other to take part in risky motorcycle tricks something many Emirati boys do nowadays. An interesting fact was that Mustafa pictured the characters as realistic as possible, he did not for instance censor the Emirati curses people say here. I believe that was smart, because he was portraying the delinquent and lost Emirati boys in the society.

All Emiratis should be very proud that we finally have a high class Emirati film. Mustafa was the first Emirati director not only to produce a 100% Emirati film production, but a beautifully directed, well edited, excellently acted and very touching feature film. It's not because he is an Emirati that I am complimenting his work, but it is because the work was truly a masterpiece. I give the movie a 9/10 and recommend all of you readers to stay tuned to any coming festival where it would be screened in. It is hopefully going to be played in cinemas around the world in a year or so.

Finally, Dubai International Film Festival wrapped its glamorous red carpet on the 16th of December where HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashed Al Maktoum attended at Mina Al Salam to give the awards to the 2009 Arab Winners.

– Alia Al Shamlan. Images: DIFF(

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