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World Stars Shine Among Independent Offerings, Docs and Quirky Comedies at DIFF 2008

Thu Nov 20,2008

World Stars Shine Among Independent Offerings, Docs and Quirky Comedies at DIFF 2008

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) today announced the stunning lineup of its Cinema of the World segment,  which pairs heavy-hitting international stars like Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Vigo Mortenson, with independent gems from Iceland to Sri Lanka and everywhere in between.

Sheila Whitaker, Director of International Programming, expanded on the selections - “Cinema of the World provides us the opportunity to gather together both the high-budget studio films like Australia,  or Che, Steven Soderbergh’s massive bio of Che Guevara, and the extremely interesting, smaller films that turn heads on the festival circuit. Viewers who enjoy engaging with a diverse range of films should certainly review Cinema of the World.

The Gala of this section is Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting, The Beach) Slumdog Millionaire, the audience pleasing tale of Jamal, an 18-year old tea boy at a call centre in Mumbai who is one question away from the top prize in the Indian version of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ So unbelievable is the prospect of Jamal’s win that the authorities interrogate him, and we embark on a colourful journey through his life, learning just how he managed to answer all the quiz show’s questions correctly.

Cinema of the World comprises the most anticipated cinematic events of the year: Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly-awaited epic Australia is a sweeping historical romance set in Australia during World War Two, starring Nicole Kidman as aristocratic Lady Sarah,  who inherits a cattle station in Northern Australia.  When she and a drover (Hugh Jackman) are faced with a grueling cattle drive, they become entwined in a romance that changes their lives.

Steven Soderbergh’s hefty biopic Che relates how revolutionary Che Guevara became one of the key political figures of the 20th century. Soderbergh’s magisterial narrative features a blue-chip performance from Benicio del Toro, which makes the four-hour film a compelling experience.

A gala presentation at this year’s Cannes Festival, Blindness is an arresting tale of a world paralyzed by a blindness epidemic. Julianne Moore, the wife of a doctor (Mark Ruffalo), is immune to the illness. As the government tries to stop the spread of contagion, sufferers are sent to prisons, where as the only sighted prisoner, the doctor’s wife witnesses the horrific effects of social breakdown.

Acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem For A Dream) brings The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke in the title role. Washed-up wrestler Randy’s glory days are behind him, yet he continues to fight to connect with his alienated daughter (Rachel Evan Wood) and an (apparently) cold-hearted stripper (Marisa Tomei).  Ultimately, Randy’s biggest fight is the one he has with himself.

Michael Winterbottom’s Genova, stars Colin Firth as head of a bereaved family try to begin a new life in Genova, Italy.  A young girl begins to see a strange figure around the city, which she believes is her mother’s ghost. Visionary filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow brings The Hurt Locker, an intense portrayal of elite bomb disposal soldiers in Iraq whose group is newly led by a reckless sergeant.

Three inspiring documentaries delve into the lives of very different, but equally remarkable, people. Valentino:  The Last Emperor is an intimate and revealing portrait of one of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century. Yes, Madam Sir is the fascinating story of India’s first policewoman, the trail-blazing Kiran Bedi. Chevolution charts how Albert Korda’s portrait of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara became one of the most recognizable images on the planet.

Two other documentaries offer fascinating glances into different social milieux. Intimidades De Shakespear Y Victor Hugo (Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies) uncovers the story of Jorge Riosse, who exerted a profound influence in the life of the filmmaker’s grandmother, and whose stay at her house coincided with many grisly murders in the district. Black Nation takes an uncompromising look at what Mats Hjelm calls America’s \“black male genocide\”. Two trailblazing documentary-style films push the boundaries of cinema - set in a poor Parisian neighbourhood, Entre Les Murs (The Class) is a brave film that delivers an unflinching account of life for foreign-born children at a school in a Parisian suburb, while Hunger recounts IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands’ 66-day starvation in prison in 1981.

Actor/director Ed Harris gets behind the camera for Appaloosa, a tale of the old West. Virgil (Harris), along with Everett, (Viggo Mortensen), ride into a remote town terrorized by a wealthy local rancher. The French graphic-novel hero Largo Winch gets a big-screen makeover in a dark story of suspense. A highly unusual crime thriller blending love and dreams of escape in Belgrade, Ljubav I Drugi Zlocini (Love and Other Crimes) introducesAnica,  who is so bored with life that she steals from her gangster boyfriend Milutin’s ill-gotten gains.

The limits of human experience epitomize three of the films - the debut feature Snijeg (Snow) tackles the bitter aftermath of the Bosnian ethnic cleansing of the mid 1990’s through the story of the town of Slavno, Summer depicts best friends in their mid 30’s uncovering the emotional foundations of their friendship and Ballast is an intense story from the Mississippi Delta. Six-year old Inti’s efforts to try to comprehend the adult world is complicated by his crazy mother who takes him on the road in the Argentinean film Salamandra.

Three humorous tales of family life take the hard edge off the segment’s offerings: Ping-Pongkingen (King of Ping Pong) takes us into the miserable, uncertain world of Rille, an overweight teenager for whom daily life is a dreary routine of bullying. However, Rille has a sanctuary where he reigns supreme – the local table-tennis centre. In Momma’s Man, new father Mikey stops off at his parents’ house in New York. His parents assume he is making a regular visit, but Mikey finds himself avoiding going back to the adult world. In Sveitabruokaup (Country Wedding), a family wedding in Iceland features the most dysfunctional wedding guests since Muriel’s Wedding.

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