Gulf Film Festival 2012 - My Top 20 Picks

The fifth edition of the Gulf Film Festival is back this month with an eclectic line up of short and full feature films from the Gulf as well as international participants. The festival is on from 10th-16th April in Festival City in Dubai and for the first time, the festival will also screen films in Abu Dhabi at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. 

The Gulf Film Festival has something for everyone, here's my list of top 20 picks, but you can see the full line up, along with the schedule on

Tora Bora (Kuwait), 102 mins

Director: Walid Al Awadi

Abu Tarek and Umm Tarek set off on a brave journey to search for their youngest son Ahmed, who after being brainwashed by extremists, decides to leave Kuwait for Afghanistan. 

Amal (UAE), 88 mins

Director: Nujoom Al Ghanem

Amal arrives in the UAE full of hope and dreams. After her first year in the country, she finds herself struggling to achieve and implement the bare minimum of her plans. She slowly finds herself coming to terms with the realisation that despite her rich artistic background in her home country, she is restricted to the margins of the cultural landscape in the Emirates. 

Silence: All Roads Lead to Music (Italy, UAE, Iraq), 80 mins

Director: Haider Rashid

From a small seaside town in Sicily, a musician who has left the stage 15 years ago travels across the Mediterranean island to put together 'The Silence Project', an unusual combination of ethnic and classical musicians who meet and play for the first time during an Arab Film Festival. Coming from four different backgrounds, these eclectic artists travel from their separate worlds, uniting into a sound that blends Sicilian, Arabic, Aboriginal and jazz styles into the realm of the purest border-free music.

Halabja - The Lost Children (Germany, Iraq, Syria), 72 mins

Director: Akram Hidou

Ali visits the cemetery of Halabja, Kurdistan, Iraq and remains silent in front of a tombstone with his name scratched name upon it. Twenty-one years after Saddam Hussein's poison gas attack in 1988, Ali returns to Halabja looking for his lost family. Meanwhile, five families have their hopes pinned on him to be their missing child.

Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai (UAE), 60 mins

Director: Katy Chang

In the documentary feature 'Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai', three artists come to terms with the truth and the artificial. Delightful hand-drawn animations interplay with live footage as art and life are intertwined in this funny, yet poignant journey of the artists as they're followed on their quest for culture.

Bahiya and Mahmoud (Jordan), 14 mins

Director: Zaid Abu Hamdan 

Bahiya and Mahmoud are an aging couple, who have fallen into a predictable routine of bickering and making one another miserable…Until one morning, Mahmoud wakes up and finds Bahiya has left. 

Wonderland - A True Story (Kuwait), 38 mins

Director: Dana Al Mojil 

An adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' that is set in Kuwait. The film highlights the similarities between the social and political situation in modern-day Kuwait and Alice's Wonderland.

Huna London / This is London (Bahrian, UAE), 17 mins

Director: Muhammad BuAli

A couple's objective of sending a photograph of themselves to their son in London should be an easy enough task. However, when the wife refuses to go to the studio, the photographer must devise new ways to capture her in a perfect shot.

Snap Shot: A Trekking Man (Saudi Arabia), 17 mins

Director: Tareq Yosef 

Jalal Bin Thaneya starts his pilgrimage to Mecca from Abu Dhabi - by foot. The director Tareq Yosef walks with him for a day to learn more about the man and his journey.

En Let Brise / A Light Breeze (Denmark), 26 mins

Director: Rania M Tawfik 

En Let Brise / A Light Breeze is an experimental multi-camera graduation documentary from The National Film School Of Denmark. Sahar derives great joy through dance. How easy is it to experience happiness?

The Gamboo3a Revolution (UAE), 17 mins

Director: Andulrahman Saleh Al Madani  

When the traditional sheila and abaya were reinvented to launch a trend of ‘Gamboo3a’, (the bee-hive hair or ‘camel hump’), society was divided over it. 'The Gamboo3a Revolution' explores this debate, of fashion v/s modesty.

Cats (UAE), 15 mins

Director: Marwan Al Hammadi 

‘Cats’ shines the spotlight on the lives of wild cats adopted by families in the UAE. Through four characters, we are introduced to the care and concerns of owners as they rear these magnificent species.

Znikniecie / Vanishing (Poland), 20 mins

Director: Battosz Kruhlik

35-year-old Iwona looks after the house in her husband's absence. She tries to imoprove her relationship with her son Michal. One day, Michal doesn't return home and none of his friends knows where he is.

La Vitesse du passé / The Speed of the Past (France), 17 mins

Director: Dominique Rocher 

Margot and Joseph are moving in to their new country house. Suddenly time stops, as Joseph falls off the roof and gets stuck in space time. Joseph's suspension in space-time forces his wife Margot to wait all her life. 

Timeglass / Hourglass (Norway), 16mins

Director:  Pedro Collante

Anna and Anton live in a small Norwegian town and are about to enter adolescence. They deal with boredom in different ways. Anton is eager to explore the world, while Anna spends most of her time with Bamse, her big fluffy dog. One day Bamse finds a mysterious wooden box on the beach... 

Artificial Melodrama (Singapore), 18 mins

Director: Giovanni Fantoni Modena

A European actress wants to leave Singapore soon after she arrives. The promise of a new world of opportunities has faded away, and she is only left facing the hyper-modernity of the new Asian cities, until a taxi driver shows her the hidden beauty of Singapore.

Hranice / Border (Czech Republic), 16 mins

Director: Martin Philipp Raiman 

Czechoslovakia 1972. A young couple decides to leave everything behind. Friends, families, loved ones. Taking a train to Yugoslavia they quickly discover that they need more than will to escape. The regime works without mercy and occupies the couples’ minds - to the end. 

The Akram Tree (UAE), 81 mins

Director: Francesco Cabras, Alberto Molinari 

The Akram Tree' is a journey through the personal and professional world of the celebrated British choreographer and dancer Akram Khan. Khan works with artits from around the world to compose a beautiful narrative and interpretation of dance that draws from his Bangladeshi heritage.

Sea Shadow (UAE), 97 mins

Director: Nawaf Al Janahi 

Set in a small seaside village in the UAE, 'Sea Shadow' follows teenagers Mansour and Kaltham as they struggle with tradition and convention in their journey towards adulthood. Bound by family and deeply-rooted values, the pair must find the courage to forge their own paths. 

Carrom (Saudi Arabia), 12 mins

Director: Hamzah Tarzan 

Abo Hanan, a 55-year-old man, diligently sets up his game of carrom every day. After a long wait, Mohammed comes along to play with him.