A still from the movie 'Blind Intersections' Image Credit: Supplied

 Unless you’re unemployed, on a sabbatical or enjoying a holiday, with 161 films from 43 countries screening at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival there just aren’t enough hours in the day to see them all.

 Having spent the last 12 months trawling through hundreds of flicks to bring only the best to Diff 2012, the dedicated Diff programmers are the most qualified to advise on what to watch.

 All seven give tabloid! their top picks for the week and tips on how do to the Dubai International Film Festival 2012.


Nashen Moodley, Director of Asia Africa Programmes

 Choice cut: “I encourage Dubai audiences to be risky with their choices.”

 Diff in a sentence: “A unique celebration of international cinema providing a rare opportunity for the people of Dubai to see a broad range of wonderful, life-changing films.”

 Top picks:

 Back to 1942 (China): “It’s a great epic which is both stylish and moving.” (December 13, 8pm, Madinat Arena)

 Lesson of the Evil (Japan): “The legendary Japanese director Mike Takashi will join us at Diff for the presentation of his very gory and very disturbing film.” (December 11, 9.30pm MoE 12; December 13, 10.30pm, MoE 10.)

 The Thieves (Korea): “This is an exhilarating heist film, filled with twists and turns, and spectacular stunts.” (December 11, 6.15pm, MoE 2; December 13, 3.15pm, MOE 1).


Dorothee Wenner, Programme Consultant - Sub-Continent

 Choice cut: “Pick a film from a country you’ve always wanted to visit. Who knows, after the screening you might end up going there.”

 Diff in a sentence: “A super-exciting season, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of film production in India. Happy Birthday.”

 Top picks:

 Shutter: “Debut film from famous activist and actor Joy Mathew, a wonderfully sharp comedy talking about effects on Indian men working in the Gulf — in Dubai — and returning home as different people.” December 10, 6pm, MoE 12; December 12, 2.45pm, MoE 1).

 Shobdo: “The heartwarming love story of Bengali director and actor Kaushik Ganguly. Best of Bengali cinema, melodrama, storytelling in a nutshell and a world premiere.” (December 10 9.45pm, MOE 12; December 12, 12pm, MOE 6.)

 Shahid: “Incredible biopic of a young Muslim, stemming from the slums of Bombay to become a lawyer defending people suspected as terrorists. Sometimes, real life creates real-life stories, more daring than a screenwriter would dare to invent.” (December 15, 9.45pm, MoE 12; December 16, 12.30pm, MoE 12.)

 Diff event not to miss: “New Indian Film Realities [December 12, noon]. Indian film professionals who present their films at Diff discuss the new realities on and behind the Indian screens.”


Antonia Carver, Programmer, Arabian Nights

 Choice cut: “Pick wildcards. Never seen a Korean, Moroccan or Senegalese film? Now’s your chance.”

 Diff in a sentence: “Diff is the place that honours filmmaking talent from Senegal, Morocco and Korea, in the same way that it does Hollywood and Bollywood — come out and support and enter worlds you never knew existed.”

 Top picks:

 Blind Intersections: “Lara Saba’s debut as a features director is akin to a “Short Cuts” for Beirut — a very different kind of film from the Arab world, and starring a stellar cast.” (December 10, 6.15pm, MOE 1; December 12, 3.30pm, MOE 9.)


 Love’s Improvisations: “Again, this is an unusual film from the Arab world — the intimate story of a relationship over time, in which we enter the world of one young couple, and all their hopes, loves and challenges.” (December 10, 9.30pm, MOE 10 9 -- standby only; December 12, 12.30pm, MOE 8.)

 Snackbar: “Typical of Diff’s Arabian Nights section of films and our mission to show the Arab experience from across the world, this film is the story of a group of young Middle Eastern-Dutch kids, hanging out in a Rotterdam suburb. Tense, gritty, and featuring quite brilliant acting — this one will have you gripped from beginning to end.” (December 13, 6.45pm, MOE 6; December 15, 12.30pm, MOE 7.)

Diff highlight not to miss: “Many people aren’t aware of the incredible talks organised by Diff, a chance to really get under the skin of the film industry.”


Myrna Maakaron, programmer, Cinema for Children

 Choice cut: “Don’t miss the children’s films which tell marvellous stories and carry you to different lands.”

 Diff in a sentence: “The leading film festival in the region showcasing not only films from the Arabic world but also from every continent.”

 Top picks: “I can’t pick three — so just watch all five films for children: Alfie The Little Werewolf, Gattu, Fidgety Bram, Ernest Et Celestine and Journey to the Christmas Star, mainly because children’s movies are rare and not often released in the Arab region.”


Erfan Rashid, director, Arabic Programme

 Choice cut: “Watch as many films as you can and search deeply behind what you see on the screen.”

 Diff in a sentence: “A clear mirror of the Arabic cinema’s contemporary situation.”

 Top picks: “As the director of the Arabic programme in the festival, it is hard to me choose one, three or even ten films. I love them all. I’m like a father who has many kids. How can I say that I love this son more than that daughter? So, if you have time, see as many as you can.”


Philip Cheah, programmer Asia/Africa

 Choice cut: “Trust in the force. Follow your own instincts to find the interesting films.”

 Diff in a sentence: “This is one festival that always makes a ‘Diff’erence.”

 Top picks:

 The Great North Korean Picture Show: “Director James Leong is an unobtrusive listener and his documentaries are therefore non-judgmental portraits. In this film, what we see is that an illusory state needs an equally compliant populace to maintain its illusion.” (December 14, 4pm, MOE 5; December 16, 12.15pm, MOE 5.)

 Hanyut: “In this daring adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly, Malaysian director U-wei Bin Haji Saari shifts the protagonist’s point of view concerning what it means to be European to his native wife’s viewpoint of what it means to be Malay.” (December 11, 9.15pm, MOE 1; December 12, 12.15pm, MOE 12.)

 Thy Womb: “In a stunning comeback role, Philippine superstar Nora Aunor breathes soul into her character of a lowly wife who is as summarily sacrificed like an animal.” (December 12, 9.45pm, MOE 1; December 15, 8pm, both screenings are on standby only).



Sheila Whitaker, director, International Programme

 Choice cut: “Take the plunge — don’t just watch the films you know you like, choose one or two from left field.”

 Diff in a sentence: “Films and fun.”

 Top picks:

 Soundbreaker (December 11, 9.30pm, Madinat Theatre; December 12, 12pm, MoE 1), The Last Shepherd December 10, 6.45pm, MoE 10; December 12, 3.45pm, MoE 6) and A Few Hours of Spring (December 10, 6.15pm, Madinat Theatre; December 13, 3.15pm, MOE 4): “Two fascinating documentaries to take one into different worlds and a very moving feature film.

 Diff event not to miss: “Try and make the Q&A sessions after the films as they give a valuable insight which nobody else can access.”