That Omar Sharif should be the first actor to be honored at the very first Dubai International Film Festival should come as no great surprise. Alone, he was-and, importantly, still is-unquestionably the Arab world’s major international superstar, his screen image nothing less than iconic.
As Omar el Cherif, the former Michel Shalhoub made his feature film debut in 1954 and went on to appear in 24 Egyptian films. After such first choices as Alain Delon and (allegedly) Christian Marquand proved unsuitable, he was selected by director David Lean to take over the key role of Sherif Ali ibn Kharish. The film was of course Lawrence of Arabia.
Omar Sharif’s impact was electric. Uniquely, he became a matinee idol that could be taken seriously as an actor, able to portray Nazis (The Night of the Generals), Russians (Doctor Zhivago), Mexicans (McKenna’s Gold) and even, yes, Americans (Funny Girl et al). He was also never averse to guest-starring just for the fun of it, and such films as Top Secret!. The Pink Panther Strikes Again and The Parole Officer only served to enhance his public image.
And yet-surprisingly-recognition of his achievements to date has been somewhat muted, perhaps because the man himself-amiable, personable, likeable, and witty-is often taken for granted, but here we salute the film star: the first foreign actor since, say, Charles Boyer, to achieve total Hollywood stardom, to prove a versatility unbounded by his own ethnicity.
It is with the greatest of pleasures and much pride that the inaugural Dubai International Film Festival salutes the Middle East’s finest and first international Arabian superstar.
Thank you, Omar Sharif.
Daoud Abdel Sayed
In the early 1980s, Egypt witnessed the rise of the ‘New Realism’ movement, and at this helm Daoud Abdel Sayed. The talented writer-director, along with compatriots such as Atef El Tayeb, borrowed from action and crime movies, the new on-screen enemies being unscrupulous businessmen and the parvenus; instead of poverty, their films denounced the new unbridled materialism.
Daoud Abdel Sayed was born in Cairo in 1946 and studied cinema at the Institute of Cinema, graduating in 1967. After a series of short fiction and documentary films, he made his first feature, Al-Sa’Alik (Hoodlums, aka The Vegabonds, 1985), considered one of the best pictures from his generation of young Cairenes. He followed this with Al-Bahths an Al-Sayyid Marzuq (The search of Sayed Marzouk) in 1990, and then Kit Kat, showing in DIFF, in 1991. Ard El Ahlam (Land of Dreams, 1993), Sarek Al-Farah (The Stolen Joy, 1994) and Ard Al-Khof (Land of Fear, 1999) brought him further fame. In recent years, Mowaten We Mokhber We Haramy (A Citizen, a Detective and a Thief, 2001) became another film favorite both in the Arab world and at festivals abroad.
Despite being one of Egypt’s most respected living cineastes, Daoud Abdel Sayed has never been given the recognition and honor he deserves in the Arab world. The DIFF is proud to put him in the spotlight and screen two of his films-examples of his talent as both a writer and director
‘all our efforts, through our parts of media and communication whatsoever, must focus on one mission… to bring this world closer with better understanding and welfare for mankind:’ Subhash Ghai
Born in 1945, in Nagpur, India, Subhash Ghai graduated in Commerce from Rohtak, Haryana, before studying cinema at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. He began his career as a screen actor before shifting to writing and then directing, making his directorial debut in 1976 with Kalicharan. The film brought him immediate commercial and critical success, and affirmed the discovery of a major new talent in Indian cinema. Setting up his own company in 1978, he went on to script and direct over 15 films; Mukta Arts is today one of India’s leading production houses, and the first corporate film company in Mumbai. Throughout his career, Ghai has managed to span the gap between popular and artistic cinema, producing blockbusters that are hailed by the critics.
In the 1990s, he led Indian cinema’s great march overseas, marketing films such as Saudagar (1991) directly to international audiences. By the end of the decade, his films Pardes and Taal, both showing in the DIFF, were hitting the top 20 in the US. A great believer in nurturing new and young talent, Ghai has also been credited with launching the careers of, among others, Maghuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala, Mahima Chaudhary, Vivek Mushran, Jackie Shroff and Apoorva Agnihotri.
Aside from his legendary place in the world of cinema, Ghai has dedicated time to working with various social, economic and human welfare associations.
It gives us great pleasure to hail his exceptional contribution to the world of Hindi cinema and beyond at the inaugural DIFF.