Egyptian actress Poussy Chalabi (left) and Egyptian actor Khaled Abo Al Naga attend the opening ceremony of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News and Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Film Festival honcho Peter Scarlet has always maintained that his rich roster of films were the stars of his 10-day event.

And if the opening night red carpet was any indication, he wasn’t completely off the mark. Devoid of Western and Bollywood talent, the red carpet saw an army of Arab stars dressed in glittering swarovski-encrusted creations and dapper tuxedos.

While Egyptian star actor-activist Khaled Abol Naga wore patriotism on his sleeve by telling the youth in Cairo not to harbour fear.

"There is blood in the streets of Cairo. We have red streets now, with young kids dying on the street. It’s a quote that you don’t normally get from a red carpet, but the red reminds me of the blood in Egypt," said Abol Naga to journalists. Moving to lighter topics, he added that Arab filmmakers were slowly catching the attention of world cinema.

"I see change and I see Arab representation in films such as Cannes," said Abol Naga.

Meanwhile, Egyptian actress Bushra clad in an ivory gown, advised young filmmakers to keep politics out of filmmaking. "If you truly want to be an actor, director or producer, you just need to focus on your art and leave politics out of it."
She brings to the festival a Hind Sabri-starrer that deals with the sensitive subject of HIV and issues related to it.
"I don’t know how the audience is going to react to it. It’s a powerful topic that can bring about extreme emotions. I would love to see what people here thinks of it.”

Apart from an army of Arab stars, Saudi designer Hateem Alakeel made a red-carpet entry in his thobe.

Clearly, the spotlight was on Arab cinema with its Executive Director Peter Scarlet stating: “There is a wave of Arab cinema rising with each passing festival.”

The lack of Hollywood and Bollywood stars may have been a sore point, but watching a film under the stars had its perks.

The opening film Monsieur Lazhar, directed by Philippe Falardeau, saw a full house with hundreds of movie aficionados.

The outdoor theatre erected at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr specifically for the festival was a winner.

“We always though that film festivals were not open to public. But there is something about watching films under the stars," said Abu Dhabi resident Bilal Majid.

The ADFF will run until October 22 and will showcase more than 140 films.