The 971 Report

Dubai film festival a treat for film fans

Behind the high-profile celebrities and the glamorous red carpets, the real stars of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) are the films.

And this year is no different, with over 160 films in 43 languages screening through the week.

For film enthusiasts like Dubai resident Nagham Akileh, DIFF can truly be a treat.

The Australian media professional and blogger, who has been a DIFF regular for the past four years, took a week off from work to attend the festival. 

"Each year I've noticed with DIFF that the quality of films that are brought in is a lot better than the last, especially with the Arabic films," she said.

Improved line-up

With so many films on show, it can be quite overwhelming to choose what to watch, especially with an improved line-up.

"It becomes harder and harder to choose what you want to see because there are so many good selections," she said. "In the previous years, there were a few gems that everyone was talking about, but this year there are a lot more of them."

Fellow film enthusiast, Michael Maksoudian, a Lebanese Armenian, who runs the film website movieblogbuster.com, agrees.

"There has been a major improvement in the selection of film titles and I'm really glad that the Arabic movies are given more priority," the Dubai resident said.

Bridging cultures

DIFF also gives viewers the opportunity to discover and explore new cultures.

Akileh, who has seen at least 20 films from Europe to Asia this year, says the festival allows her to get 'exposed to different genres, different cultures and countries."

"I try to have a selection from different countries and genres. I also try to catch some more documentaries and Arabic films only because I know I won't be able to see them anywhere else," she said. 

Maksoudian, who has been to several film festivals around the world including Cannes and Doha Tribeca, says these films can help boost cultural awareness.

"Through the different films that are playing in the festival, we get a taste of the different cultures," he said, adding: "As we are exposed to these new cultures, our awareness and acceptance of other cultures improves."

This message is central to DIFF's mission, as it operates under the banner of 'bridging cultures'.

Filipina Claudia Fermazi, a DIFF regular, says the event offers the country's expatriates a window into their own homes.

"Probably something that expats like me who grew up in the Middle East could relate to is that DIFF brings you films and filmmakers from all over the world, including your homeland. Watching such works gives you a fresh perspective of where you come from and also helps identify similarities between cultures," she said.

Akileh, who has family in Gaza, Palestine, shares similar sentiments, saying one of the films at DIFF, Gaza Calling that features families in the conflict-ridden region, touched her.

"It really got to me because I have family who live there and I've heard these stories as well," she said.

All about the films

But ultimately, it is about the films, the filmmakers and the work behind the scenes.

"The best part for me is when you hear about actors in their immersion process, or filmmakers doing whatever it takes to deliver the final product, hassles in distributing in their own country, or the real-life inspirations for these movies," Fermazi said.

"You realise how they truly are labours of love."

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