ABU DHABI, Oct. 16: After four months of intense preparations, the inaugural Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF) kicked off on Sunday night as everyone expected it — with a spectacular entertainment.
From early afternoon, long queues of cars waiting to get inside Emirates Palace, traditional Emirati folk singing in the hotel’s main courtyard, and a red carpet that took hours to install, were announcing the grandeur of the event.
However, lights, camera and, finally, action started an hour late from the scheduled time.
Ambassadors, movie stars and other personalities from the film industry flooded the red carpet, displaying not only impressive costumes or designer dresses, but also real excitement to be part of a new, major film festival.
Khaleej Times spoke to several “red carpet stars”. Dia Mirza, an Indian actress, said: “I have seen the list of films to be screened and I think it’s a very good selection. I wish to stay to watch them all.”
The much cheered Egyptian actor Ahmed Ezz said: “I don’t have any expectations yet, as the festival is just starting. I am very happy to be here. I believe it’s really good that MEIFF is taking place in Abu Dhabi, a city that puts a lot of emphasis on culture.”
Erik Rosenlund, the Swedish director of short animated film ‘Looking Glass’, said, “What I am hoping for is a nice screening for my movie and an enthusiastic audience.”
“If I get the $100,000 grant, I’ll have to work really hard for my movie, which will probably be ready in two years time,” said Fadel Al Muhairi, a UAE filmmaker whose first feature film idea, ‘A Corsair’s Tale’, was short-listed for the In Circle grant.
After two hours on the red carpet, the scene shifted to the Emirates Palace auditorium, where a special opening gala show was prepared by Otis Sallid, a renowned choreographer who has directed, among many other shows, the Oscars.
He filled the stage with three screens and 25 dancers who took the future of Abu Dhabi, symbolised by a young Emirati boy, through both a cinematic and geographical journey. Dance routines from various countries were performed while flashes of timeless movies such as the ‘Godfather’, ‘Gone with the Wind’, and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ were shown on the screen.
Officially opening the festival, Shaikh Sultan bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, welcomed the guests to Abu Dhabi.
“This is a historic evening. We are hoping to attract filmmakers to Abu Dhabi,” said Shaikh Sultan.
Nashwa Al Ruwaini, executive director of MEIFF, said it’s a very important evening for her, as it is the second time in her life that was wearing a gown. On a more serious note, she thanked everyone for making the festival possible, especially Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces. John Fitzgerald, the MEIFF director, said, “The festival brings what the city deserves, which is world class films.”
Indeed, the first presentation that opened the festival is one of the best movies made this year, expected to make it past the Academy Awards nominations. Joe Wright’s ‘Atonement’ is a gripping story of love and lifetime guilt, told through the ingenious sound effects of a typewriter, which moves the story backward and forward in time. Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Romola Garai all play impeccably, reminding the audience why cinema is called the seventh art.
The night ended with a sumptuous beach party on the Emirates Palace’s terrace, with live entertainment of funky Iranian/Arabic music and a spectacular display of fireworks.
From yesterday, the Festival started screening the competition presentations, as well as special international and Middle Eastern movies. All films are open to the public and are shown either at Emirates Palace, Cultural Foundation or Cinestar. For tickets sale and detailed programme, contact MEIFF’s web site at http://www.meiff.com.