09 December 2004

Film Festival

This week saw the first Dubai Film festival with the theme of "Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds".
This is a huge event, a first attempt by Dubai to put itself on the international cultural map. Unfortunately there is a lot to learn about pre-publicity. Tickets couldn't be bought or reserved until three days before the first film was shown, and the website  was woefully devoid of actual film listings (prior to the festival). Once the festival started, though, it was a huge success. People had been waiting for such an opportunity to see all the obscure and unusual - i.e. not Hollywood or Bollywood mainstream - movies that never show up in the local cinema chains. The festival had a few spotlights on themes and actors, among them Omar Sharif. It was a stroke of genius that one of the opening movies shown in an open-air amphitheatre in Dubai Media City was 'Lawrence of Arabia'.
The actual showings of most movies were completely sold out within the first days of tickets going on sale. The events were very well organised (although photographers complained they were not given enough access to the gala screening - I guess it's essential to get yet another picture of Orlando, or Sarah Michelle), with masses of volunteers directing the viewers to their seats in one of three cinema venues. I only had the opportunity to cram in 6 movies in the two days before we went to Egypt, but I was impressed with the strangely appropriate space of the Mercato shopping centre, which houses the Century Cinema complex. It's so roomy with lots of coffee shops to sit between movies, space to hang out and recover.

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