Patrick Stewart, Wahid Hamed, Cate Blanchett and Irrfan Khan were honoured on Wednesday night at the Dubai International Film Festival’s (Diff’s) opening ceremony.
“It’s ladies first tonight which is probably a good motto going forward in the film industry,” said Blanchett, the first to accept her honour on stage. Blanchett, a Diff regular for three years, congratulated the festival for not only celebrating diverse storytelling from around the world but also from the region. She is best known for roles such as Elizabeth (in the eponymous 1998 movie) and Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.
Stewart, 77, accepted a lifetime achievement honour. His career has included instantly recognisable roles in the Star Trek and X-Men franchises.
“The world is in turmoil, and I believe cinema has a role in bringing turmoil to an end. It’s a universal language. Yes, our job is to entertain, but all my life I’ve believed we have an objective beyond that — higher and more beneficial,” said Stewart.
Aside from an illustrious career, beginning with theatre acting, Stewart has long been an advocate of combating domestic violence and a proponent for gender equality in Hollywood.
On the red carpet, Stewart said: “For decades, women have been denied the opportunity to be a full creative presence in the work of film, and that’s beginning to change.”
Bollywood actor Khan also referenced the current state of affairs in his speech.
“We’re living in strange times. We’re a very special generation. If I tell my kids there was a time without internet, they wouldn’t believe me,” he said.
When given the microphone, Khan said, joking: “Are you sure? I’m not good with speaking. I’m not good at remembering names, I sometimes forget my own name and what day it is.”
The 50-year-old actor added that he doesn’t typically assign significance to awards, but that being in such company as Stewart, Blanchett and Hamed felt “surreal”.
Hamed, 73, a prolific screenwriter and a giant of Egyptian cinema, dedicated his acceptance speech to the actors and directors who helped him build his legacy: “I’m proud to belong to Egyptian cinema. Without those who supported me, I wouldn’t be standing here today. I have a strong feeling that right now, I’m living a youthful moment, and I thank this festival which is taking significant and serious steps to becoming better and better.”
Hostiles, a period Western starring Christian Bale, Wes Studi and Rosamund Pike, was Diff’s opening night film, introduced by actress Q’orianka Kilcher.
“It’s a timeless story. The underlying note and tone that struck me is focusing on things that brings us together as human beings rather than what divides us. It’s such a relevant message today,” she said.
The tense film follows a white American Cavalry officer and a Cheyenne war chief.
Director Scott Cooper echoed Kilcher’s sentiments in a video message: “Our racial and cultural divide is growing by the day,” he said, adding that he hoped Hostiles, set in 1892, would contribute to ongoing discussions around inclusion, reconciliation and healing.
Don’t miss it!
Diff takes place until December 13 in Madinat Jumeirah. Tickets to screening, starting at Dh35, are on sale on diff.ae.