Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DAY 5 AT ABU DHABI FILM FESTIVAL

Naguib Mahfouz
ADFF 2011 Presents Panel on Naguib Mahfouz and Launches Special Screenings for Women

Day five at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival brings an expert-led panel discussion on the late Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz and his unique relationship with cinema. Today the Festival also presents its first women-only screenings, a new initiative to bring together an all-female audience to enjoy a special double bill.

Presented as part of the Festival’s retrospective Naguib Mahfouz - Man of Cinema, today’s panel will explore Mahfouz’s contribution to Arab cinema as a novelist and scriptwriter, present a comparative study of his work that was adapted into Mexican cinema, and offer a critical review of the films of Salah Abu Seif and Hassan Al Imam, who were deeply inspired by Mahfouz. The event also includes the book launch of Naguib Mahfouz - Man of Cinema, published by ADFF. Panelists include Samir Farid, Kamal Ramzi and Wael Abdel Fatah, who wrote chapters in the book, as well as Abboud Abou Jawde, who contributed prints from his private collection to the Festival’s exhibition of film posters. Moderated by Intishal Al Timimi, ADFF’s senior programmer of Arabc cinema, this special event takes place at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr’s Saker Ballroom A, 2:30 p.m.

In the morning, festivalgoers can join a Conversation with Göran Olsson: A Case Study of The Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975, in which the Swedish director discusses the relevance of the Black Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s in light of recent events around the world. Since The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 premiered at Sundance in January, the Arab Spring has changed the region, huge demonstrations have taken place in Chile, Spain and Greece, riots have erupted in England and the Occupy Wall Street has started in the United States. Olsson will share his invaluable insight on documentary filmmaking and also screen Kairo, a short film he co-directed with Tarik Saleh in 1998. 11:00 a.m., at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr’s Saker Ballroom A.

The first installment of the Festival’s new women-only screenings takes place this evening, featuring an intriguing double bill that covers topics ranging from shoe design and celebrity style to the shady fringes of the global fashion industry and the harsh realities of the modeling world.

God Save My Shoes, by Julie Benasra, is a lighthearted look at the love affair between women and their high heels. With insight from top designers Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and Pierre Hardy, as well as shoe-obsessed celebs like Fergie, Dita Von Teese and Kelly Rowland, Benasra walks the audience through the ages to examine high-fashion footwear from a historical, psychological and sociocultural perspective.God Save My Shoes is shown at 7:15 p.m., VOX 4.

The second film in this program is Girl Model, by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, a provocative documentary that looks into a dark, seldom-seen segment of the modeling industry. Ashley, a professional scout, makes a living recruiting the youngest girls possible to meet the Japanese market’s thirst for youthful innocence. For Nadya, a naive 13-year-old from Siberia, modeling seems like a great way to support her poor family. But when conflicts, contradictions and frustrations mount, can they navigate the modeling world’s hall of mirrors? 9:15 p.m., VOX 4.

Tonight’s Gala Screening is 18 Days, a compilation of short films made by both newcomers and established directors in the wake of the Egyptian revolution. Of note here is a move away from the urge to document the goings-on around the revolutionary events; the filmmakers choose instead to have the revolution as a background – interacting with it at times, while at other times delving into the lives of the actors. Contributing film talents expected to attend this red-carpet event include Yousry Nasrallah (Director), Marwan Hamed (Director), Kamla Abou Zikri (Director), Sherif El Bendari (Director), Yousra (Actress), Hend Sabry (Actress), Bassem Samra (Actor). 18 Days plays at the Abu Dhabi Theater tonight, at 10:00 p.m.

The Short Film Competition kicks off today. Showcasing inspired narrative, documentary and animated short films by emerging and esteemed international filmmakers, the competition is a vital source of support for the short film genre. The 2011 selection features 31 films from 23 countries, as well as two newly launched awards for producers of short films. Today’s lineup features two programs of selected narrative and documentary shorts from around the world. Shorts Program 1 screens at 6:15 p.m. and Shorts Program 2 follows at 9:15 p.m., both at VOX 2.

The international premiere of The Reasons of the Heart, by Arturo Ripstein, opens today’s lineup from the Narrative Feature Competition. One of Mexico’s most famous directors, Ripstein returns with an ensemble melodrama, inspired by Madame Bovary. Emilia’s only respites from her failed marriage are brief love affairs, but when her lover leaves her she faces a drastic choice. 8:45 p.m., VOX 1.

Ismaël Ferroukhi’s new film Free Men is also part of the Festival’s Narrative Feature lineup. Set in Paris during the Second World War, it depicts the lives of a Muslim peddler, a Jewish singer and an imam who come together to hide persecuted people from the occupying German forces, thus keeping them from deportation and death. WithFree Men, Ferroukhi brings to light another story of daring, courage and humanity in the face of Nazi atrocities. Free Men is shown at 9:30 p.m., VOX 5.

Today’s film from the Documentary Feature Competition is Position Among the Stars, by the Dutch filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich, who now teaches at NYU Abu Dhabi. To create the follow-up to his multiple-award-winning Shape of the Moon, Helmrich spent 12 years filming the lives and times of the Sjamsuddin family, framing them against the backdrop of social upheaval in Indonesia. Position Among the Starsis filled with natural drama and crafted with an unorthodox blend of vérité and whimsical formalism. Screening at 7:30 p.m. at VOX 8.

Troll Hunter, selected for both the New Horizons and the Our World Competitions, is set in the wintry Norwegian countryside, home of an endangered species unlike any you’ve ever seen. When three gutsy film students tag along with a hard-bitten hunter named Hans in the hopes of making an investigative documentary on bear poaching, they soon find out that Hans is after a different kind of prey…. André Øvredal’s film brims with all the edge-of-your-seat energy of seminal suspense films like Jaws and The Blair Witch Project. Shown ay 9:45 p.m., VOX 1.

Playing in tonight’s Showcase lineup is Steven Soderbergh’s new film Contagion featuring an all-star ensemble including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne. From London to Hong Kong, San Francisco to Abu Dhabi, Contagion follows the outbreak of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. This globe-spanning thriller is screened at 7:00 p.m., Abu Dhabi Theater.

The Temple, by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, tells the story of a sleepy town that gets swept up in the idea of becoming a glittering city after a local herdsman has a divine vision that inspires him to build a huge temple. Vote-hungry politicians, overzealous media, change-resistant old timers and bright-eyed youth figure into this satire on Indian modernization. The Temple is shown at 9:00, VOX 6.

The Our World Competition continues with Buck, Cindy Meehl’s documentary about Buck Brannaman, a living legend among horsemen, who inspired the hugely popular novel and film The Horse Whisperer. Rising above the fierce abuse he suffered during childhood, Buck now travels the world as the foremost expert in caring for mishandled, unruly and untamed horses. Winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, this tender portrait proves that a relationship with an animal can be a mirror of the human soul. 6:30 p.m., VOX 3.

The day’s screenings also include two landmark films from the Festival’s Naguib Mahfouz – Man of Cinema retrospective. Hassan El Imam’s 1964 classic Palace Walk is based on the first part of Mahfouz’s celebrated Cairo trilogy and embodies the dramatic changes witnessed by the citizens of Egypt’s capital city at the beginning of the 20th century. Ahmed Abdul Jawad (Yahya Shaheen) is a despot with his family, but is quite the opposite when he is not at home. The clash of conservatism and emerging contemporary values is palpable in Ahmed’s duplicity and its effect on those around him. Palace Walk is screened at 9:00 p.m., VOX 3.

Today’s waterfront screening is The Hunger, one of the great works of the Arab cinema. After accidentally killing a local gangster, a weak-willed man comes to embody the corrupting nature of power. Naguib Mahfouz often used Egypt’s fabled past as a handy cover for sharp critiques of contemporary dictatorships: this 1986 adaptation by Hassan El Imam begins a century earlier but has unmistakable parallels to Egypt under more modern strongmen. Waterfront Films are screened at theFairmont Bab Al Bahr’s beach, 7:30 p.m. and are free of charge.

ABOUT THE FESTIVAL

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival (formerly the Middle East International Film Festival) was established in 2007, with the aim of helping to create a vibrant film culture throughout the region. Presented each October by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) under the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, the event is committed to curating exceptional programs to engage and educate the local community, inspire filmmakers and nurture the growth of the regional film industry.

With its commitment to presenting works by Arab filmmakers in competition alongside those by major talents of world cinema, the Festival offers Abu Dhabi’s diverse and enthusiastic audiences a means of engaging with their own and others’ cultures through the art of cinema. At the same time, a strong focus on the bold new voices of Arab cinema connects with Abu Dhabi’s role as a burgeoning cultural capital in the region and marks the Festival as a place for the world to discover and gauge the pulse of recent Arab filmmaking.

ADFF 2011 is made possible in part through the generous support of its partners: MAKE UP FOR EVER (Principal Partner); Jaeger-LeCoultre and Emirates Motor Company/Mercedes-Benz (Major Partners); Etihad Airways, VOX Cinemas, TwoFour54, YahLive, Blackberry and Abu Dhabi Media (Official Partners); CNN, Radio 1, Radio 2, OSN, MUBI, Synaxis Media and Variety (Media Partners) and Masdar (World Partner).