film festival tourism

Dubai

The Dubai International Film Festival

Closing Night Ceremony at the 2009 Fest

Closing Night Ceremony at the 2009 Fest

Why Go: To catch up on the latest trends in  Middle Eastern cinema in an over-the top  playground of a city.

Festival Website: http://www.dubaifilmfest.com/en

Timing: Second week in December, when the weather is balmy but not unbearably hot.

Programming: Launched with great fanfare in 2003, the Dubai fest has for the most part lived up to its promise with a professional staff and intelligent programming that emphasizes Middle Eastern and Arab themes. An array of films from other countries are on the program as well with a special focus on Bollywood. Censorship is not a particular problem, though films are strictly rated in relation to their suitability for children.

Tickets: Affordable and easy to purchase on-line or in person.

Screening Venues: Brand new and state-of-the-art with excellent comfort and sightlines. The main venues are the CineStar Multiplex at the Mall of the Emirates and the First Theater at the Madinat Mall.

The CineStar Theater complex

The CineStar Theater complex

The Madinat Theater

The Madinat Theater

Audience: A broad mix of tourists and locals (who are largely Indian, Pakistani and Iranian).

Special Guests: The fest brings in most filmmakers and also hosts numerous stars and celebrities. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachhan was among the special guests in 2009

Screening Schedule: Movies begin just before noon on up to twelve screens.

Program Notes: Minimal, and uninformative. This is the weakest part of the festival.

Surroundings: Dubai is an extraordinary place, a family-oriented playground where everything is mega proportioned. Even though I was there during a financial crisis, the show charged ahead. Crime here is not a problem and English is widely spoken. Everything is designed for the comfort and pleasure of the tourists, who are mostly British.

Getting Around: Not a problem. There is a brand-new skytrain and taxis are cheap.

Best Extra-Curricular Activities

It’s worthwhile taking an on-off bus tour of this extraordinary place with its endless modern high-rises, shopping malls and pleasure centers (including an indoor ski hill and an enormous water park). Dubai’s beaches and parks are lovely and carefully tended.

Indoor Ski Hill

Indoor Ski Hill

Wild Wadi Water Park

Wild Wadi Water Park

Accomodations: I stayed at the Holiday Inn-Al Barsha, a pleasant hostelry close to the CineStar Multiplex. SHEIKH ZAYED ROAD PO BOX 115443. Phone: 971-4-323 4333. http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hotel/dubhi

Holiday Inn Al Barsha

Holiday Inn Al Barsha

Eating: Dubai’s multitude of malls host innumerable food courts as well as fancy eateries. I most enjoyed dining beside the Venice-style canals in the Madinat Mall, where many of the films are shown.

Canals at the Madinat Mall
Canals at the Madinat Mall

THE FESTIVAL YEAR BY YEAR

2009

 

2009 Fest Catalogue

2009 Fest Catalogue

 

Best Film I Saw: A Prophet. Civilizations clash with a vengeance in the French prison system, where Muslims and Corsican power blocs vie for control. In this dark, kinetic thriller from Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips) provocative subtleties underpin an ingenious, action-filled plot.

A Prophet

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