The 9th Dubai International Film Festival kicked off on the 9th-16th of December. Held annually since 2004, DIFF has become the biggest film festival in the region (including the Middle East, Asia and Africa).

An event that goes beyond just glamorous red carpet events, it is the leading platform for promoting Arab cinema, screening international films, and hosting seminars and workshops. The opening night began with a star-studded event held at Madinat Jumeirah and was attended by a multitude of international stars including Cate Blanchett and Frieda Pinto.

The impressive lineup of films this year includes the screening of 158 films from 61 countries in 43 different languages and 51 world premieres.  The Gulf region is showcasing a total of 36 films, a significantly higher number than any of the prior years.

Cate Blanchett

The festival commenced with the premiere of the 3D adaption of the novel Life of Pi, directed by Oscar winning director Ang Lee, and starring 17 year old Indian actor Suraj Sharma.

Films from the Gulf revolve mostly around the recent ongoing social and political changes in the region. One particular local film attracting a lot of attention is Wadjda by Haifa Al Mansour, based on the struggle of the Arab women’s rights; the movie is both thought provoking and insightful.

DIFF is also hosting a range of panels and workshops for filmgoers and those associated with the industry.  There is opportunity for networking to bring together emerging artists and filmmakers with professionals from the industry.  Other interesting events include The Broadcasters Day, In Conversation, and Documentary Day, all different platforms to initiate in-depth discussions and dialogue between the audience, media, actors and filmmakers.

The Muhr Awards divided into Muhr Emirati, Muhr Asia Africa and Muhr Arab amounts to a total of USD 575,000 in cash prize. This year 83 films have been shortlisted to compete from a total 2,100 submissions. The prestigious panel of judges for these three categories includes Kerry Fox, Nayla Al Khaja, and Bruno Barreto. The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award of USD 100,000 will be given to one emerging filmmaker chosen by a jury that includes Cate Blanchett.

Dubai International Film Festival has played a key role in bringing Arab talent and cinema into the international arena and in its 9th year it promises to be far more successful than the years before.

Dubai International Film Festival is taking place until December 16, 2012. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.dubaifilmfest.com

– Saira Malik

Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum at the opening ceremony
Suraj Sharma, Adil Hussain and Shravanthi Sainath talk about their movie Life of Pi
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