Sun Nov 23,2008

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has revealed the names of its five distinguished guests for the third annual discussion of cinema as a means of cultural understanding—fitting DIFF’s credo ‘Building Bridges, Meeting Minds.’

Hannah   Fisher, Programmer of the festival’s iconic Cultural Bridges segment, expanded on the panelists: “We are thrilled to have these guests, all of whom have a unique take on the issues we are discussing, and all of whom have been personally involved in forwarding the cause of peace, mutual respect and dialogue between peoples. I sincerely hope Dubai audiences will join us for a third year as we open and examine these topics.”
Cameron Bailey, a writer, broadcaster and film critic and programmer in Toronto, will chair the panel. He is the current co-director of the Toronto Film Festival and past president of the Toronto Film Critics Association. As a programmer, Bailey is the founder and former programmer of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa section, and past head of the festival’s Perspective Canada series. Bailey has contributed articles on subjects including cinema, Black culture and new technology to Take One, The Village Voice, Screen, CineAction!  and Borderlines.

Lending a literary voice is Yasmina Khadra,  otherwise known as Algerian novelist Mohammed Moulessehoul, who adopted his pen name to avoid censorship during the Algerian Civil War. A writer since the 1960’s, Moulessehoul was only able to reveal his identity after moving to France. A staunch advocate of intercultural understanding, his 2006 novel The Swallows of Kabul explores religious fanaticism and its impact on society.

Jamaican-American singer, musician and social activist Harry Belafonte reveals his political side at the Cultural Bridge Panel. Best remembered for his early calypso hits such as the Banana Boat Song, Belanfonte has been an activist throughout his career. He was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. He has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, has supported the campaign against AIDS, and most recently was outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq War.

Ethiopian-American director Haile Gerima is a professor of film, philosopher, writer, and producer was well as a filmmaker dedicated to making films that tell of the human condition, intercultural understanding and social change. His feature Teza screens at DIFF this year, and won Best Screenplay and Special Jury Prize at the 65th Venice Film Festival. The film depicts a doctor who returns to his native country of Ethiopia and cannot escape from the violence that his taken over his homeland.

Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta is one of Canada’s most prominent filmmakers, best known for her Elements Trilogy of the films Earth, Fire and Water, which was nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film,  making it the first non-French language film to receive a nomination in that category. Her new film Heaven on Earth, screening at DIFF,  depicts an Indian woman in an abusive relationship in Canada. Mehta’s work has come under fire from conservative elements, but her passionate outlook has always pushed into the limits of human experience, particularly with regard to women.

The Cultural Bridge Panel will take place on December 14,  at a cost of AED 25.

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