You Saw it Here First
Sun Dec 14,2008
DIFF 2008 Screens 11 World Premiere Features
Audience members at the fifth annual Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) have the opportunity to cast eyes on 11 incredible films from around the world that have never been seen before by any audience anywhere. These World Premieres are the cutting edge films of 2009 that will only come to cinemas months after DIFF 2008 ends—if at all.
Masoud Amralla al Ali, DIFF’s Artistic Director and Director General of the Competition, said: “the fact that directors and producers are choosing to premiere their projects at DIFF means that we have gained a profound level of trust as a respected platform to launch a film on the world stage. An incredible amount of work goes into the making of a film, and we take very seriously our responsibility of gaining premieres the attention they deserve.”
From Algeria, director Ahmed Rachedi’s Mostefa ben Boulaid is the story of one of the commandants of the War of Independence. Having led the beginning of the rebellion from jail, he nevertheless refused to be acknowledged as a leader, instead operating in a staunchly democratic form. Al Mor Wa Al Rumman (Pomegranates and Myrrh), from Najwa Najjar, is set in Ramallah, where free spirited dancer Kamar’s husband is imprisoned. Alone, Kamar returns to the only place where she can be free—the stage. There she meets Kais. Sparks fly, creating a passionate, emotional dance for both of them. This tender, brilliant film stars Yasmine al Masri (Caramel), Ali Suleiman and Hiam Abbass (both of Paradise Now).
Casanegra is a realist drama suffused with the violent, chaotic authenticity of Casablanca, led by two young non-professional leads selected from thousands of itinerant men living on the Casablanca streets by Nour-Eddine Lakhmari. Like Casanegra, Ride the wave, Johnny…! (Tere Kya Hog, Johnny…!) is set in the mayhem of Mumbai’s back streets. Johnny, a friendly youth who sells coffee from a bicycle, transcends his lowly status with inspiring decency, yet is frequently taken advantage. My Secret Sky offers a child’s view of the harsh reality of the streets, from the point of view of two orphans who travel to Durban in a bid to sell a mat made by their mother.
French graphic-novel hero Largo Winch gets a dark and thrilling big-screen makeover in the film of the same name. Billionaire Nerio Winch is found dead. His great secret is that he has a son, who was quietly taken into adoption thirty years before and is currently in prison. Are the murder and imprisonment part of a plot to seize control of the Winch empire?
Inspiring documentaries are also among the first-time offerings: the touching Vietato Sognare (Forbidden Childhood) deals with the impact of conflict on young people growing up in Palestine through the words of a former resistance fighter,and an Israeli ex-soldier. Open Shutters Iraq chronicles a project where Iraqi women created photo diaries of their lives. Film maker Maysoon Pachachi focuses on the project’s manager, who risked death to travel across Iraq in search of participants. In Hakim Belabbes’s Hazihi al Ayadi (These Hands), globalisation is on the march, but age-old traditions and customs are still an integral part of Moroccan life.
El Sistema bears witness to the extraordinary work of Jose Antonio Abreu, a man who established ambitious music programmes for children in the Venezuelan barrios. In another slum, this time in Detroit, Swedish documentarian Mats Hjelm’s Black Nation takes an uncompromising look at what Hjelm calls America’s “black male genocide.”
The Dubai International Film Festival will run from December 11 to 18, 2008. For further information, consult the film festival’s website at