5th Abu Dhabi Film Festival (October 13-22, 2011)
Let’s Shovel Some Money!
by Ali Nour-Mousavi

  A special vivid air governs Abu Dhabi during 10 days that the small port city hosts its international film festival. For them, this is the sole opportunity to watch a collection of different films from across the world. During the 355 remaining days of the year, more than 50 modern movie theaters which use the latest versions of Dolby Surround system have nothing to do but to screen the latest installments of Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean as well as other commercial products of Hollywood and Bollywood.
  The 5th Abu Dhabi Film Festival opened with the revelation that Absolutely Tame Is a Horse was not on the schedule anymore as the film had failed to obtain a screening permit. Therefore, Nader and Simin: A Separation was the sole official representative of the Iranian cinema. It had already won many prizes from other festivals. Of course, a few short films were screened in the short film section of the festival. Iran, instead, had two representatives in the jury: Bahman Qobadi was heading New Horizons’ jury while Fatemeh Mo’tamed Arya was member of Asian Young Cinema’s jury.
  An innovation in this year’s festival by its director, Peter Scarlet, was to arrange open-space nocturnal screening at the garden of the festival’s hotel which was adjacent to a lake. The open theater had been built by an Iranian architect who lives in Switzerland. He was also present in the festival to supervise film screening at that theater. This year’s festival was not held in the seven-star Emirate Palace; instead, it had moved to a five-star hotel. This issue and low presence of Hollywood stars backed rumors that the festival’s budget had been decreased. This was, of course, good news to real film buffs who hoped that the festival will pay more attention to quality of films rather than attracting famous stars. The new center of the festival was far from downtown movie theaters where films were screened and many participants said goodbye to open theater in order to be able to see more films in other theaters across the city. Therefore, the festival office later announced that watching movies at the open-space theater was free! The opening ceremony was also held at this theater. Abu Dhabi is relatively warm in October and volunteer students distributed cold water and fans among the guests! Monsieur Lazhar from Canada, which also represents the country in Oscar ceremony, was the festival’s opening entry. It casts the Algerian actor, Mohammad Fellag, though only his last name was mentioned in credits. It was a good choice for the opening night. It is about a political refugee who starts teaching to a class where students have non-educational problems.
  There were, as usual, a number of special sections in this edition. Tributes were paid to Naguib Mahfouz, the famous Egyptian writer and Noble laureate, and also to famous Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman. Some of Bergman’s prominent movies were also screened in addition to a number of adaptations from Mahfouz’ books. A major difference with previous editions of the festival was remarkable presence of the Arab cinema, especially from Morocco and Egypt which had collectively sent 17 movies to the event. Attention was also paid to the developments known as Arab Spring by screening Egyptian movies, 18 Days and Tahrir 2011.

... To Be Continued

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