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Arab childhood stories meet endearing global tales in DIFF’s ‘Cinema for Children’ showcase

Tue Nov 10,2009

From Hollywood’s fairytale princesses and chirpy chipmunks to true-life struggles for survival from the Arab world, this year’s Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) will feature its most eclectic children’s programming to date.

The ‘Cinema for Children’ segment, aimed at children and families, will for the first time include three short films from Qatar in its repertoire, all of which make their GCC premiere at DIFF. In addition are whimsical and coming-of-age slices of life from the region, highlighting the evolution of Arab cinema and increasing focus on films for children.

Brand-new Disney animation blockbuster The Princess and the Frog is another highlight at DIFF 2009. The musical tells the story of a prince turned frog, whose request for a fateful kiss from a beautiful girl takes an unexpected turn, leading them both on a hilarious adventure.

The filmcombines the directing talents of John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Hercules) and cast including Anika Noni Rose, Oprah Winfrey, Keith David, John Goodman, Terrence Howard and Bruno Campos.

In a much-awaited sequel to the exploits of the popular chipmunks, a children’s favourite, is Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. The chipmunk chums, this time, are striving for pop stardom at their school competition while encountering their wily female counterparts, a sassy trio called The Chipettes. Directed by Betty Thomas, the film stars Jason Lee and David Cross, and features the voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney.

The illustrations of an ideal childhood, every body’s favourite Little Nicholas comes to DIFF with the French production Le petit Nicolas, directed by Laurent Tirard. True to the children’s book created by René Goscinny and illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé, the film is a hilarious big-screen debut exploring the adventures of Nicholas who revels in his position as the only child in his family.

The short Mazen and the Ant from Qatar, the story of a young boy living in picturesque Lebanese town who becomes fascinated with an ant’s struggle to carry a grain of wheat. He is taken by the insect’s world and decides to help it. Mazen’s adventures are brought to the big screen by award-winning director Borhane Alaouié.

Very Humane is a short that tracks 12-year-old Mahmoud, who works as a bus conductor when he’s not at school to help his mother, unemployed father and sick grandmother. As Mahmoud grows taller and bigger, however, his job with the small-service bus is in jeopardy. The short film is directed by Osama Fawzi, regarded as one of the Egyptian film industry’s outstanding talents.

Directed by Mohamed Malas, an international film festival veteran, The Tissues Vendor, the last of the three Qatar short films, focuses on 12-year-old Suleiman who lives with his poor family and other displaced refugees in a village overlooking Damascus. The boy sells tissues to help his family raise money, but his real dream is to buy a Suzuki pick-up truck of his own.

Myrna Maakaron, Programmer for the Cinema for Children programming segment, said: “We are delighted to include talent and stories from the Arab world in this valuable segment this year. DIFF has always sought to provide content that is both entertaining and informative, and we believe these short films will allow children from the UAE to better understand other parts of the Arab world.”

The shorts will also help convince young Arabs that films and cinema are useful storytelling tools for the modern generation, she added. “The Cinema for Children segment is for not only the young but the young at heart, and we expect our selection to be popular with families, schools and adults as well.”

The sixth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will run from December 9 to 16, 2009. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah are the principal sponsors of DIFF.

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