Curtain Rises On Dubai’s First Film Festival

Mon Dec 06,2004

Two years of exhaustive preparations for the first Dubai International Film Festival culminated in grand style last night as international celebrities, regional stars and UAE VIPs walked up the 40-metre long red carpet at the Madinat Jumeirah Arabian Resort prior to the opening gala screening.

Lit up by sky trackers and a state-of-the-art lighting system, 800 VIP guests including international film stars Orlando Bloom and his co-stars from Lord of the Rings, Nicolas Cazale, and a constellation of Arab stars were welcomed to the Festival headquarters by Festival Chairman HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of the Emirates Group.

The official opening began with a moment of silence in memory of the late President, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to whom the Festival’s centerpiece program “Operation Cultural Bridge” is dedicated this year. UAE national filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja then opened the proceedings, introducing Festival Director and CEO Neil Stephenson, Festival Chief Arab Programmer Masoud Amralla Al Ali and the director and crew of opening gala film Le Grand Voyage.

Stephenson and Amralla then extended a warm welcome to all Festival visitors from around the world and around the UAE, and credited Festival patron and Crown Prince of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Festival Chairman –HH Sheikh Ahmed with creating a unique and unparalleled event in the cultural landscape of the UAE.

“The birth of this Festival is due to an idea conceived by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum – our event patron and chairman respectively,” Stephenson told the assembled guests. “The idea was that Dubai should use its historic position as a multicultural crossroads to host an international Film Festival that would act as a cultural bridge and serve as an instrument of global understanding and dialogue between East and West, between the Arab and non-Arab worlds. We hope that the final product we have created will go some way towards satisfying that noble and worthy goal.”

Stephenson also outlined the Dubai Film Festival’s unique positioning. “We have not tried to outdo anyone with our Festival or to compete with anyone but ourselves,” he said. “We have not tried to follow or imitate any other Festival. What we have done is simply try to ensure that the Festival and its programming serves and reflects the Dubai community.”

The Film Festival, he added, is just one part of Dubai’s plans to build a new cultural infrastructure. “We aim to build a vibrant entertainment industry in Dubai and the UAE to complement Dubai’s position as a media hub, and to contribute to a dynamic knowledge-based economy in the UAE for the long term.”

Stephenson thanked HH Sheikh Mohammed and HH Sheikh Ahmed for being rocks of support and pillars of inspiration for the Festival organizers and staff at Dubai Media City. He also thanked the Festival’s presenting sponsors – Dubai Duty Free, Emirates, Madinat Jumeirah and Nakheel – for the resources extended to the Festival; gold and silver sponsors Dubai Outdoor Media, National Bank of Dubai, Kanoo Group, Motivate Publishing, E-Vision, ARN/DRN, IBM, Single Digits and Atlas Telecom; Salim Ramia and Gulf Film; the Mercato Mall cinemas management; members of the DIFF Steering Committee and all the advisors, programmers and staff who have worked on the Festival since its inception two years ago.

The Festival opens to the public today with multiple screenings across the six Festival venues. Three box offices are currently open for business: at the CNN Building Lobby in Dubai Media City from 11 am to 6 pm until December 6, and until 8 pm during the Festival; at the Madinat Theatre in the Souk at Madinat Jumeirah from 11 am to 9 pm until December 6 and until 10.30 pm during the Festival; and at the Mercato mall from 10 am to 6.30 pm until December 6, and until 10.30 pm during the Festival.

Additional box offices will open on December 7 at the Madinat Arena, and at the Auditorium at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel on December 8.

Telephone bookings and orders can be made with the Box Office on (04) 367 6701 / (04) 367 6707 for advance bookings and directions to box office venues.

Prices range from Dh. 10 for the four open-air “Screen on the Green” films (Lawrence of Arabia, Mr. India, Gagamboy (Spiderman) and Five Children and It) at the Dubai Media City amphitheater to Dh. 20 for regular screenings at DIFF main venues and Dh. 50 for the red-carpet gala screenings at the Madinat Arena, Madinat Jumeirah Arabian Resort-Dubai. Two special offers – student discounts and a Five-Flick deal that offers a set of five regular screening tickets for the price of four – have also been created to make the Festival accessible to all UAE residents and visitors.


The Dubai International Film Festival will be held between December 6 and 11, 2004, and will feature approximately 75 films including features, retrospectives and short films. The Festival is divided into 10 distinct programs, each focusing on a particular Festival theme. DIFF is presented by Dubai Media City and its presenting sponsors are Dubai Duty Free, Emirates, Madinat Jumeirah Arabian Resort-Dubai, and Nakheel.  DIFF Gold Sponsors are DOM International, The Kanoo Group and National Bank of Dubai, and Silver Sponsors are Arabian Radio Network, Atlas Telecom, Dubai Radio Network, E-Vision and Motivate Publishing.


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