Meet Abdul Hamid Juma, chairman of Dubai International Film Festival.
We could tell you he was appointed in 2006, was the driving force behind the Gulf Film Festival, named the third most influential figure in Arab Cinema today by Good News Group and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from the University of Colorado and a certificate in General Management from Harvard Business School.
Or… we could tell you about his latest chinwag with Lindsay Lohan. No contest.
“She is one of the most together people I have ever met,” said Juma, fully aware he was saying the extraordinary. “I know it’s not what people would expect but we met at a film festival in the US and she really surprised me. She made a lot of sense and really made me see her in a different light. She’s down to earth and very intelligent and has lots of great ideas about film for the future.”
Who would have thought it? Juma also added the 26-year-old Liz & Dick actress has expressed a desire to set foot in the Dubai desert but finds it difficult due to filming commitments. Her ongoing legal issues with fortune teller Tiffany Mitchell — who claims Lohan hit her in the face and spat on her in a New York nightclub last month — probably haven’t helped either.
The list of celebrity chats Juma has had is endless — George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Leo DiCaprio to name a few. “They are all just human,” he says matter-of-factly. “They appreciate the things we do and live for the same things.”
But the man who was part of the initial team that founded the Dubai International Film Festival in 2004 says while the celebrities are “great”, it’s film which has shaped his life.
“Film has taught me patience,” he said. “I used to be a very impatient person, always wanting things done sooner than now. If I went to watch a film and I didn’t like it within the first 20 minutes I would leave. I learned to stay clinched to my seat and brain-wise it was torture, but it was worth it. I realised not every film has to be entertaining in a commercial way, you can learn so much from a deeper message. You can spend 90 minutes living someone else’s life and it teaches you something.”
With more than 160 films from 43 countries at this year’s Diff, Juma says the possibilities are endless.
“Accept the challenge of film and see how it reflects on you. More than 200 different nationalities reside in Dubai and film could bring us all a little closer together. Why do we tend to interact with people from our own country? Film opens our minds and allows us to witness something new. It’s not just entertainment but can also help us speak to our neighbour in the apartment next door. Film can bring people together. It’s a very powerful and beautiful thing.”
Juma’s top tip for the festival: “Have the courage to go and see something you wouldn’t usually think suits your own taste. Learn something about film and in return learn something about yourself.”