Two New DIFF Films Showcase UAE Involvement

Sun Dec 11,2005

Dubai, December 11, 2005: Two lesser-known but important stories from the UAE will make their world premiere at the second Dubai International Film Festival on Monday, December 12, the first full day of DIFF screening. Although the two films could not be more different in terms of subject matter, they both invoke a sense of shared responsibility for humanity and the environment. Kosovo: The Hand of Friendship brings to light the massive mercy mission undertaken by the UAE Armed Forces in Kosovo at the height of the crisis there, and Under a Desert Sun from UAE-based filmmaker Jonathan Ali Khan focuses on the twin issues of desert ecology and Arabian wildlife and the need to preserve them. Both films are expected to attract widespread attention at the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival. Under the Desert Sun, which opens tomorrow at the CineStar Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates, is a thought-provoking environmental documentary from the UAE that addresses the pressing need to preserve Arabia’s wildlife. The first part of the film focuses on the deserts of the region and the surprising abundance of wildlife - birds, reptiles, mammals and foliage - that have adapted to survive there. Chief among them is the acacia, a remarkable plant that thrives in a range of desert ecosystems and provides desert inhabitants with the food and shade they need to survive. An oasis of life, the acacia is linked to the fate of species like the endangered Arabian gazelles. Photographed in stunning desert landscapes, Dubai-based filmmaker Jonathan Ali Khan’s documentary also beautifully captures and tells the story of the oryx, the most romanticized of Arabia’s inhabitants. After it was hunted to extinction in the 1970s, an international conservation campaign set out to reintroduce this beautiful desert antelope into the wild. Khan’s film concentrates on the oryx’s natural history and the recent conservation efforts in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Jordan. Under a Desert Sun, part of the Dubai Film Festival’s Destination Documentary program, will be screened at 3.45 pm on Monday, December 12, at CineStar 1 at Mall of the Emirates, and again at 11.45 pm on Friday, December 16, at CineStar 7. The story behind Kosovo: The Hand of Friendship begins in 1999, when Serbian forces began once more the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo in an attempt to expel the Muslim population. The massacres and other atrocities committed forced more than 100,000 people from their homes, triggering a humanitarian crisis. Moved by the disaster, the UAE responded by moving relief agencies and defense forces into the region, beginning with a massive aid effort to house and feed 10,000 starving refugees. The UAE also took responsibility for building an airstrip, and eventually played a significant role in the international peacekeeping and reconstruction operations, even protecting Kosovars and civilian Serbs when they returned. As a permanent legacy, the UAE built a fully equipped modern hospital in the area which to this day continues to serve the needs and save the lives of the Kosovar people. Filmed by Gerry Nelson over three months in Kosovo and the UAE, Kosovo: The Hand of Friendship provides a remarkable insight into the forces behind the war in Kosovo and reveals some of the many forgotten acts of friendship that saved so many lives. The film is part of the Dubai Film Festival’s cornerstone Operation Cultural Bridge program. The world premiere of Kosovo: The Hand of Friendship will be held at 9 pm on Wednesday, December 14, at the Madinat Theatre at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah, with several officers from the UAE Armed Forces expected to attend. An additional screening will be held at 6 pm on Friday, December 16, at CineStar 7 at the Mall of the Emirates. The second Dubai International Film Festival begins on Sunday and will feature 98 films including features, retrospectives and short films until Saturday, December 17. Tickets and the schedule of the Festival films are available on the Dubai Film Festival website, and tickets are also available at the DIFF Box Offices around the city. The Festival is presented by Dubai Media City and its Founding Sponsors are Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Properties, Emirates, Etisalat and the Madinat Jumeirah – the Arabian Resort. The Festival’s Gold Sponsors are Bin Hendi Enterprises, National Bank of Dubai, Showtime, The Kanoo Group and The Palm Jumeirah; the Silver Sponsors are Filmworks, Motivate Publishing and Sony.

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