The 9th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival is on from 9th-16th December. The theme this year is "A Film for Everyone" and with a line up of 161 feature films, shorts and documentaries from around the world - there certainly is a something for everyone.
The opening film is Ang Lee's Life of Pi (my bet was on The Hobbit) and there's a big line up of celebrities attending this year's festival. But I won't go into any of that. I'll just get straight to the point of this post, my usual top 20 recommendations. Let me know if you have a list and see you at the festival front row and centre.
100 Mankai ikita neko (The Cat That Lived a Million Times)
Yoko Sano, 70 years old picture book author, was given two years to live due to cancer. While reciting her masterpiece picture book “The Cat That Lived a Million Times” which was published 33 years ago, people talk about their view of life and death in their life.
On the other hand, Sano is slowly heading to the death. The camera captures both Sano and people who read the book and talk their life which was linked with only the book. This is the tranquil documentary thinking about life and death based on a picture book.
Winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or this year AMOUR tells of octogenarians Georges and Anne, retired classical music teachers, long married and still enjoying each other's company and life's simple pleasures. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in London with her family.
One day Anne has a mild stroke and Georges insists on looking after her but when a second one strikes, life as they knew it is over. In this poignant exploration of the power of love Haneke's direction and marvellous performances from two legendary French actors leave one breathless and deeply moved.
Dana and Zana are two little kids looking for their salvation. The only way they figure out to that is "Superman", after secretly watching bits and pieces of the movie. They are both orphans and homeless, in the Iraqi Kurdistan, under the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein during the nineties of the last century.
Their only hope is to reach the United States of America, and live with their friend "Superman". But how to get there? They have no money, no passports, and the only means of transportation they've got is a donkey.
This glorious silent melodrama is inspired by the fairy tale of Snow White. Young Carmen escapes her malevolent step-mother to join a travelling troupe of bullfighting dwarves and rises to fame in the corrida.
The combination of a much loved fairytale and a female bullfighter crossed with Goya visuals ensures a fantastical tribute to a golden age of cinema and the toreros.
Casablanca Mon Amour
Using movies as a road map, and in part a road movie itself, CASABLANCA MON AMOUR offers a Moroccan perspective on the long and entwined relationship between Hollywood and the Arab world. This highly original film takes a human look at the effects that blockbusters have had people’s imaginations and affords Moroccans an opportunity to talk back - which they do in intelligent, witty and wildly ingenious ways.
Part-documentary, part-fiction, and featuring a cast of compelling non-actors, CASABLANCA MON AMOUR uses the process of movie making as a way of turning the Great American Story on its head; in the process it offers Hollywood and America a story about itself.
De rouille et d'os (Rust and Bone)
Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts star in this gritty, emotionally credible and raw story of love and courage from Jacques Audiard that garnered unanimous accolades in competition at Cannes this year.
Based on Craig Davidson’s eponymous short story, RUST AND BONE is about a 25-year-old single father who meets a beautiful killer whale trainer who suffers a terrible accident. An emotionally moving story of love and courage that lingers in the mind.
Deine Schönheit ist nichts wert (Your Beauty Is Worth Nothing)
In this charming and thoughtful film, 12-year-old Veysel, named for the legendary Turkish poet Asik Veysel, struggles to adapt to his new life in Austria. At school he doesn’t speak the language while at home there continues to be tension amongst the various family members.
His only happy moments are when he thinks about Ana, a classmate he is secretly in love with and unable to communicate with. Help comes in the unlikely form of a rough neighbour, Cem, who assists as Veysel set outs to win Ana's heart.
A rare chance to see old fashioned courtship, where singing was once used to woo a woman. SERENADE is a lovely portrayal of a side of the Philippines rarely seen on the screen.
Florante, a classically trained guitarist returns to the Philippines after 12 years and rediscovers harana - a long-forgotten Filipino tradition, when men sang under the window at night to fearlessly declare their love for a woman.
He finds three of its last surviving practitioners - a farmer, a fisherman and a tricycle driver - and asks them to travel with him to perform. As word spreads around Manila of leathery faced men whose style of expressive singing touch the hearts everywhere they performed, it culminates in recording the first authentic harana album in the last 50 years. But can harana be restored to its former glory or is it doomed to vanish silently into the night forever?
Paul Thomas Anderson continues his investigation of flawed characters (MAGNOLIA, THERE WILL BE BLOOD) with this powerful story of the relationship between Freddie, a Second World War ex-soldier, and Lancaster, the larger than life founder of a new religious cult who uses his charm and charisma to beget and manipulate followers.
Their friendship is bizarre and volatile with Lancaster’s sophistication set against Freddie’s troubled and violent psyche. A glorious, ebullient study of characters outside conformity.
Mit Afghanistan - livet i den forbudte zone (My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone)
Disenchanted by the western media's depiction of the war in Afghanistan, director and journalist Nagieb Khaja decided to equip a group of Afghan civilians with mobile cameras.
The end product offers glimpses of their dreams, hopes and fears in the midst of a war zone – as viewed by the people of Afghanistan.
A solitary man lives as a loan shark brutally threatening people for payback, and maiming them for insurance money when they fail to pay.
When a woman appears in his life claiming to be his mother, he rejects her at first, but is ultimately drawn to her and decides to give up his cruel ways for a better life.
It’s not as simple though, as the woman is kidnapped, setting him off to track down all those he harmed. When he finally finds the abductor, he discovers dark secrets better left unknown.
RADIOMAN is the extraordinary story of New York street bum Craig Castaldo, who became an unlikely movie legend with over 100 cameo apperances in films and TV shows.
Director Mary Kerr debuts as a documentary director with a film which features interviews with celebrities including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams and more. Watch out for Craig in your movie going!
Ship of Thesus
If the parts of a ship are replaced, bit-by-bit, is it still the same ship? An unusual photographer grapples with the loss of her intuitive brilliance in the aftermath of a clinical procedure; an erudite monk confronting an ethical dilemma has to choose between principle and death; and a young stockbroker, following the trail of a stolen kidney, learns how intricate morality could be.
Following the separate strands of their philosophical journeys, and their eventual convergence, SHIP OF THESEUS explores questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death.
Shut Up and Play the Hits
On 2 April 2011, LCD Soundsystem played their final show at Madison Square Garden. LCD frontman James Murphy had made the conscious decision to disband one of the most celebrated bands of its generation at the peak of its popularity, ensuring it would go out on top with the biggest concert of its career.
The instantly sold out, near four-hour extravaganza did just that, moving the thousands in attendance to tears of joy and grief. SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS documents this once in a lifetime performance and presents an intimate portrait of Murphy as he navigates personal and professional ramifications of his decision.
A fun horror film with lots of laughs, horror and bloody deaths to keep everyone happy. Chris wants to show Tina his world and he wants to do it his way - on a journey through the British Isles in his beloved Abbey Oxford Caravan. But it doesn't take long for the dream to fade.
Litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre-booked caravan sites, not to mention Tina's meddling mother, soon conspire to shatter Chris's dreams and send him, and anyone who rubs him up the wrong way, over a very jagged edge.
The notion that the piano accordion could be regarded as an instrument capable of beautiful music may come as a surprise to some, but just listen to Kimmo Pohjonen.
Whether playing alone or accompanied by other musicians, bellows, farmyard animals and machines, this Finnish maestro enthralls listeners with his strongly Scandinavian take on multiple musical genres. His approach to music, his instrument and life (see him drop out of sight down a hole in deep ice) provides an extraordinary document of a singular man.
Sta Per Piovere (It's About To Rain)
IT’S ABOUT TO RAIN is a film about a very particular situation - an Algerian father and two Algerian-Italian sons, struggling to come to terms with an Italy that appears to reject them - that's extraordinarily universal.
Starring the charismatic newcomer Lorenzo Baglioni as Said Mahran, this is a subtle, emotional and gripping story, one that relates to everyone that's ever found themselves between different countries, belonging somewhere that doesn't make them wholly welcome.
In this beguiling and unpredictable film, a temperamental old woman, her Cape Verdean maid and a neighbour devoted to social causes live on the same floor of a Lisbon apartment building.
When the old lady dies, the other two learn of an episode from her past: a tale of love and crime set in an Africa straight from the world of adventure films.
Virgem Margarida (Virgin Margarida)
1975, Mozambique’s rebirth as an independent nation. The young revolution sweeps the streets of Maputo clean of prostitutes and bad habits. The prostitutes are sent to re-education camps deep in the countryside, where they will become “new women” – loyal comrades of the new nation.
As the “clean-up” takes place, Margarida, a 16-year-old girl from the countryside, is mistakenly taken. Drawing on the stories of real women, VIRGIN MARGARIDA is a dramatic exploration of a little known chapter in Mozambique’s history. A chapter that made no allowance for individuality and enshrined male domination as an ideology.
Every day Wadjda passes a toy store window with a beautiful green bicycle. Although it is forbidden for girls to ride bicycles, Wadjda concocts a plan to earn enough money to afford the bike by secretly selling 'illicit products' in her schoolyard.
But her plans are soon exposed, leaving her with only one last chance to make the money she needs; a Quran recital competition with a big cash prize. Wadjda tries to find a sly and cunning way to rise above her fellow competitors to make her most cherished dream come true... the green bicycle.
[Movie synopsis via dubaifilmfest.com]