Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) line-up for 2012

One of the main attractions for DIFF other than watching cool movies we otherwise don’t get to see is getting up, close and personal with people we either idolize or just admire for the many roles they portray on and behind the silver screen. I met some awesome people last year. And from the moment I did a course locally with Icon Art Productions who later inspired me to enhance my writing skills to script writing/editing under Universal Film Makers as a fun hobby, the admiration for people working behind the screens has grown two-fold.

International celebrities flying into Dubai this December include: Academy Award winners Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Livia Firth, Frieda Pinto, Rooney Mara, Kirsten Davis, Amr Waked, Bryan Ferry, Suraj Sharma, Steve Oram, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jessica Mauboy, Shravanthi Sainath and Adil Hussain and Erica Linz.

A-list Arab celebrities gracing the red-carpet include: Laila Eloui, Nelly, Khaled El Nabawy, Ezzat Abu Ouf, Salah El Sadany, Hassan Hosny, Ghassan Masoud, Hany Ramzy, Mohamed Saad, Ahmed Rateb, Ghada Adel, Ragaa Al Gedawy, Sherine Adel, Maxime Khalil, Yosra Ellozy, Amir Karara, Sirine Abdel Nour, Nermine El Fikky, Caroline Khalil, Magdy El Hawary, Samer Ismael, Mehyar Khadour and Mounzer Rayhana.

And stars flocking to DIFF from the GCC include: Haya Abdulsalam, Jushoon, Ibrahim Al Habri, Souad Ali, Abdul Mohsen El Nemer, Salah Al-Mulla, Habib Ghuloom, Jaber Nagmoush, Abdulla Boushiri, Shimaa Ali, Zahra Arafat, Fatima Abdulrahim, Abdul Aziz Jassim, Mansour Al Feli, Mahmoud Bou Shahri, Fatma Alsafi, Yacoub Alsalili, and Basem Abdulamir. In addition Ahmad Al Braiky, Hamad Al Omani, Asmahan, Jamal Al Radhan, Yacoub Abdalla, Somoud, Abeer Al Jundi, Faisal Alamery, Aseel Omran, Buthaina Al Raisi, Reem Arahma and Haifa Hussein.

Audiences will also have the unique opportunity to meet established filmmakers along with exciting new talent including: Wayne Blair, Khairy Beshara, Abdulatif Abdulhamid, Nour Eddine Lakhmari, Haiffa Al Masour, Stephan Archinard, Brian A. Miller, Brillante Mendoza, Saul Williams, Andrew Adamson, Aron Warner, Feng Xiaogang, Takashi Miike, Nishtha Jain and Mostofa Sarwar Farooki.

The prestigious Muhr Awards have gone from strength to strength and this year will showcase a record number of films – an impressive 83 films will compete for over US$575, 000 in prize money across three categories – Muhr Emirati, Muhr Arab and Muhr AsiaAfrica. The line-up this year was selected from 2,100 submissions from 115 countries and is considered to the most remarkable, competitive and diverse selection to date. Arabic features will also be eligible for a variety of prestigious global awards including the FIPRESCI International Prize of the Critics Award.

DIFF’s outstanding competition juries this year consists of world-famous filmmakers, industry decision makers and onscreen talent who will come together to help judge the Muhr Arab, Asia Africa Awards include: Michael Apted, Kerry Fox, Bruno Barreto, Chang Dong Lee, Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, and Nayla Al Khaja.

DIFF will also present its Lifetime Achievement Awards to veteran Egyptian actor Mahmoud Abdul Aziz and prolific British director Michael Apted, who have both made commendable contributions to the world of cinema and inspired countless of people through their body of work….get ready for a week of great entertainment in Dubai.

UAE National Day and its significance to expats

UAE flag

This weekend has been an eye-opener for me about how diversely international we are and how enriched our lives are because we live in a nation that has so many nationalities who are bound by one thing – the fact that they have chosen this amazing country to be their home over anywhere else in the world.

We had the biggest party on the planet at the Dubai Rugby 7s this weekend which is one place where we Fijians congregate and meet each other in the UAE once a year. I was watching my daughter who is half British and half Fijian cheering for both countries with equal vigour. Today it is equally beautiful to see her flying the UAE flag from the car as we go out and about because UAE is where she was born and has lived in all her life so she sees this as her main home. We have a home in Spain but we don’t feel the same way for the place the way we love UAE because our memories are all here. I am glad that my child has chosen to embrace all 3 cultures of Fiji, UAE and the UK instead of having an identity crisis that some half-baked psychologists once told me she would have because of the way I was exposing her to the world. (Sometimes I reckon the psychologists just manipulate people’s minds into believing negative stuff so they can serve their own needs or make a living without having to do much)

Anyway, while I bombarded the world with my Fijian tweets etc over the weekend, today I want it to be all about the UAE. Since the UAE was founded in 1971, it has succeeded in many arenas despite facing many difficult circumstances and many challenges. I am proud to be living in a country where the union has resulted in a successful federation that continues to grow from strength to strength. As my child treasures the UAE flag today in respect of the country she was born in, I see the colours of the flag as a symbol that represents this strength,  inspiring the citizens and the residents of the nation to keep the momentum in moving ahead in all spheres of life.

The celebrations we see today serves as a constant reminder to us of where UAE was 4 decades ago, where it is today and where it intends to go in the future. It helps to fully appreciate the momentous challenges the various Emirates and the nation has overcome to obtain records of achievement that is impressive by all standards…. I don’t know any country that has achieved what UAE has or any nation that takes such good care of its people the way this country does.

The rulers of this nation have also made sure the successes have an impact on everyone by improving basics like better living standards, infrastructure development, welfare-state entitlements, health and education. It is amazing how the various Emirates have grown from palm-huts coastal towns to modern buildings and then to iconic buildings that host businesses that make it a vibrant trade centre of the Middle East.

Keeping the ideals and values of the union intact is one of the most fundamental goals all UAE government leaders and while every UAE national day is reminder of what it has achieved as a nation, the celebrations today is one way to look back at history and marvel how technical developments have guided the embryonic UAE to its present prosperity, becoming the ultimate salute to the unification. As expats, we are privileged to enjoy the prosperity the unification has brought to this blessed country we are so attached to….and as my daughter’s birthplace, UAE will always be cherished in our hearts and minds – for the exposure Tash has had to so many cultures and nationalities here is the reason why she is growing up as an amazing and knowledgable young woman.