Sun Dec 07,2008

Romantic Stories from Around the World Add Flavour and Feeling to Festival Offerings

The Dubai International Film Festival yearly introduces the freshest and most exciting global cinema, encompassing every genre from action film to documentary. In 2008, the festival boasts a bumper crop of romantic stories that demonstrate the powerful, enduring nature of love stories around the world.

Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly-awaited epic Australia is a sweeping historical romance, set during World War Two. Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), an aristocratic British woman, falls in love with her rugged cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) on a grueling cattle drive across hundreds of miles of harsh terrain. Their romance gives them the courage to confront the uncertain future under Japanese bombardment. Likewise, Turkish actress Ayca Damagci plays herself in Gitmek (My Marlon and Brando), an epic story of her deep love for Kurdish Iraqi actor Hama Ali. After meeting on a shoot shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq,  both returned to their respective homes. As Ayca watches the news reports from Iraq, she decides to make her way to the man she loves, embarking on a life-threatening journey through the most dangerous territory in the region.

Arabian Nights Gala Film Al Mor Wa Al Rumman (Pomegranates and Myrrh) is the passionate story of free spirited dancer Kamar, whose husband is in prison in Ramallah. The only place where she can be free is the stage, so when sparks fly between Kamar and handsome dancer Kais, neither knows where the steps will lead. This brilliant film stars Yasmine al Masri (Caramel), Ali Suleiman and Hiam Abbass (both of Paradise Now).

In Tulpan,  hapless, innocent Asa lives in Kazakhstan’s Steppe. By day, he learns to be a shepherd, but is far more concerned with wooing the beautiful Tulpan. From regaling her parents with tall tales, to arguing with Tulpan’s statement that his ears are too big, Asa’s life won’t be complete until he gets his girl. But in the wild, desert sands, there’s a wind of change blowing, and Asa must confront his future. Should he try his luck in the city? And where will that leave his future with Tulpan?

Dawn Of The World, by Iraqi-French director Abbas Fahdel, tells the story of Mastour (Waleed Abou El Magd) and Zahra (Hafsia Herzi), two Iraqi Marsh Arabs whose joyous wedding is followed by the outbreak of the Gulf War. Mastour is sent to the front lines, where he meets and befriends Riaz, a young fellow conscript from Baghdad. Tragically,  Mastour is mortally wounded and makes Riaz promise to take care of Zahra. But Zahra is too grief-stricken to care for Riaz, and as he struggles to win her affections, a tense scenario winds to breaking point.

Youssef, an anesthesiologist, and Laila, a disaffected radio host, are two typical thirtysomething Cairenes in Geninat Asmak (Aquarium):  professional, single, emotionally guarded, and faced with a world where secular and religious influences collide. Together, the pair cautiously gravitate towards each other, yet remain isolated by their respective circumstances. In addition to the hesitant romance, characters frequently step out of the narrative to ponder Laila and Youssef’s lives, adding a further dimension to this graceful ode to the mysteries of love.

A Fiance for Yasmina is a tender-hearted story set in Spain that charts the star-crossed relationships of a group of friends at an immigrants’ centre. Lola is a sunny, optimistic girl who suspects that her fiancé  Jorge’s eyes are on Yasmina, who is in need of a visa to stay in Spain,  but Yasmina is impatient to marry her policeman fiancé, Javi, who proves slow at fixing a date. A heady brew of emotions and secrets, A Fiance for Yasmina is a brilliantly acted, engaging ensemble drama.

In romantic comedy Kissing Cousins, Amir undertakes break-up missions on behalf of others. He pretends to be emotion-proof, but is troubled when his friends mock him for being single. His cousin Zara comes to visit from the UK, and restores his image by pretending to be his girlfriend. The gag works—a little too well. To Zara’s consternation, she has to remind Amir that they are first cousins, forcing him to analyse his need for an emotional commitment.

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