On Thursday October 11th, 2012 the Abu Dhabi Film festival kicked off its 6th edition. The event, which will run until the 20th of October, is presented by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, with the purpose of enabling films from the Arab world to compete alongside international works.

With 81 feature length movies and 84 short movies participating from 48 different countries, the festival works towards helping create a vibrant film culture throughout the Arab region. The program looks to engage and educate the local community, as well as inspire filmmakers of the region in order to encourage the growth of the regional industry.

There are seven film sections in the festival:

Narrative: For storytelling filmmakers. Worthy of mentioning is the film No by top prize winner at Cannes' Director's Fortnight Pablo Larrain. It's about a visionary adman at the Pinochet era in Chile whose bold advertising campaign helped end the regime.

Richard Gere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2012

Documentary: For the films that explore remarkable stories and issues. An interesting movie in this category is As If We Were Catching a Cobra. Initially intended to be a political caricature of Egypt and Syria, recent events in both countries led to this thrilling documentary about Arab artists fighting for freedom.

Short Film: Short productions that include narrative, documentary and animation. One of the films showing is Abu Rami is a Lebanese 18 minute motion picture in which an old couple goes for a drive in Lebanon to visit their son Rami and his wife. The car breaks down, and while they wait for help tensions rises and secrets divulge.

Scene from the film Arbitrage starring Richard Gere and Laetitia Casta / Photo Credit Myles Aronowitz

Showcase: Feature films from around the world. Besides Richard Gere's Arbitrage, other movies are to be noted such as Sparkle, a melodrama with Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston, about three sisters that become soul sensations in Motown in the 1960s; Trashed, a disturbing documentary with Academy Award winning actor Jeremy Irons that features the ever- increasing global problem of waste disposal; The Suicide Shop, a French animated film about a Parisian family that caters to the needs of the suicidal.

Emirates Film Competition: A competition for short films from the UAE & GCC. One of the entries is Um Duwais, an animated film about an old Arabian myth about a beautiful woman who seduces men with her voice, scent and hypnotizing eyes. Another short film is a Kuwaiti entry called Taif, by Faisal Al Duwaisan, about a couple that is struggling to save their relationship.

New Horizons: For fresh new directors. The Citizen, an American movie by Syrian Sam Kadi will have its International Premiere at the festival. It's about an Arab, Ibrahim Jarrah, who wins the US Green Card lottery and has the misfortune of arriving to New York one day before 9/11. Another movie, The Hijacking by Tobias Lindholm, is an absorbing psychological drama about negotiations between the CEO of a shipping company and Somali pirates.

Special Programs: Includes a wide range of screenings from past and present productions. While many screenings are Middle East premieres, distinguished classics such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Singin' in the Rain (1952) have been restored and will be showed at the festival.

This year's red carpet attendees included, but were not limited to, Richard Gere and Nate Parker, as they opened the festival with their film Arbitrage. They were joined by director Nicholas Jarecki and one of the movie's executive directors Mohammed Al Turki from Saudi Arabia. Other special guests of the opening night were Indian megastar Mammooty and Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, Syrian actor Jamal Suliman.

Two prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards will be given out, the first to Egyptian screen legend Sawsan Badr, making her the first Arab actress to be honored with this award, and the second, to Italian film star Claudia Cardinale, actress of 1960s and 1970s European cinema.

The festival is an interactive experience, not limited to screenings only, but also Q&A's with the filmmakers as they are in attendance at almost every film. Also, an Audience Choice Award was established among the Showcase section films in order to allow the public to be the jury by voting through a public ballot. In addition, master classes and workshops are set in place by experts to simulate interest in the film culture.

Tickets and passes are now on sale. While single screenings go for AED 30, the complete festival pass costs AED 400. Don't miss out on the program, select your films of interest and enjoy the experience!

For more info regarding the festival visit www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae

– Yasmine Mehdi

Images courtesy of Abu Dhabi Film Festival

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