The force was strong on the closing night
By : Kerry Baggott
Thu Dec 15, 2016
It was a star-studded grand finale to DIFF 2016 – in more ways than one yesterday.
Stars of the Arab film industry were unveiled during the afternoon’s Muhr Awards before stars from a galaxy – far, far away – were visited during the Festival’s final screening and MENA premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Formal proceedings all began in the beautiful arabesque Madinat Theatre where, with standing room only, His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, handed out the esteemed trophies for the Muhr Awards.
The atmosphere was electric as the winners made their way through the audience to collect their prizes to raucous applause. In fact, the crowd was so deep that we wondered if Mounia Akl was actually present because it took her so long to navigate her way to the stage to collect her much-deserved Special Jury prize for ‘Submarine’.
When Abdulla Al Kaabi won the award for best Emirati feature for ‘Only Men Go to the Grave’, he raised his trophy in the air in elation. Bader Alhomoud was clearly elated when his name was announced. He literally came bounding down the stairs in excitement to collect the prize for the Best Muhr Gulf Short for ‘The Bliss of Being No One’, and, unable to control his excitement gave out a loud ‘Yes!’ when he was led into the stage wings.
Everyone in the theatre was on their feet to give a standing ovation to Mohammed Hammad for his outstanding film ‘Withered Green’. Likewise for Julia Kassar who took home Best Actress for her work in ‘Tramontane’ and for Ali Sobhi who won Best Actor for ‘Ali, The Goat and Ibrahim’.
It was clear from this gathering that the community of local and regional artists in the Arab film world is a tight knit one with everyone backing the region and willing for its global success.
From the theatre, the audience made its way to the Madinat Arena for the closing film to this, the 13th annual, film festival – ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’.
Here they collided with the region’s Star Wars’ fans including a host of storm troopers, Imperial guards, a Khalessi-inspired R2D2 and even Chewbacca (who must have been baking in that all that fur in Dubai). Many received prizes for their outfits – and caused much merriment in the crowd.
Before the film rolled, director Gareth Edwards appeared in a video message to apologize for not making it himself to the screening but hoping everyone enjoys “watching it [the movie] as much as we enjoyed making it”. His final message being: “May the force be with you."
Indeed, it didn’t disappoint with the audience kept on the edge of their seats. As well as many a planet and battle station being blown up, cheers erupted among the viewers as familiar ‘faces’ appeared in the film, notably when Darth Vader made his first appearance onscreen, well into the first hour of the film, and in the closing scene when Princess Lela makes a show for her one liner.
It was a fitting crescendo to what can aptly be described as ‘an out of this world’ Festival. Well done DIFF 2016. Can’t wait for next year already!