Dubai: The curtain closes on the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) Wednesday night after Tuesday's final gala screening of My Week with Marilyn.

With high-profile names such as Tom Cruise, Shah Rukh Khan, and Ali F. Mostafa walking the red carpet this year, the 8th DIFF has shown to be another successful event.

With 171 films from 56 countries that premiered this year in Dubai, the number of films has more than doubled since the first festival in 2004, which boasted an impressive 75 films.

The first DIFF was launched after two years of preparation and over 400 administrators and volunteers with the vision to "lead in building cultural understanding through creative achievement in film," according to the official website.

Fast forward seven years, it has done just that - all while becoming one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, both regionally and globally as filmmakers premiere their movies on Dubai's silver screens.

Abdulhamid Juma, festival chairman, said that DIFF has served "a prominent role in nurturing and developing cinema in the region." 

Celebrities on the DIFF red carpet

With eight galas this year, the 8th Dubai International Film Festival brought celebrities from across the world to the red carpet in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. This year’s festival started with a bang as Tom Cruise and other stars of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol jetted into Dubai for the world premiere of their movie. Cruise arrived at the red carpet at 6pm to greet fans. The screams of fans were deafening and Cruise spent the next two hours signing autographs and clicking pictures. Many other stars graced Dubai with their presence during the week; Owen Wilson, Ronan Keating, Kinda Alloush, Basma Ahmad, Amr Yousuf, Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Farhan Akhtar and Anushka Sharma to name a few. The line-up of movies included a mix of star-studded blockbusters and independent and small-budget films. Some of the movies were being screened for the first time and used DIFF as a launch pad to reach a wider international viewership. There were also interactions with the stars following the screenings, which made the festival a memorable experience for many.

A treat for movie lovers in Dubai

We take a look at what this year’s Dubai International Film Festival had to offer. Built on the belief of ‘Bridging Cultures, Meeting Minds,’ this year’s event highlighted how cinema, irrespective of language or country of origin, can connect with human minds and promote the spirit of harmony. Following the changes that swept the Arab world in the past year, the spotlight was on Arab movies with filmmakers striving to make themselves heard. With over 170 movies shown, this year’s festival was a treat for movie lovers. Twitter was abuzz with tweets about the festival. @nagham tweeted to us (@GNReaders) saying “The quality of film entries keeps getting better and Dubai Film Market has contributed some great entries. I really enjoy the Arabic films and documentaries filmmakers of my generation are making. That's the best part of DIFF for me.” Another follower @KhaledSharrouf said: “Great #DIFF11 experience! Amazing films and blogs and not enough sleeping! Big thanks to the organisers and volunteers.”

Discovering Emirati cinema

The 8th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has ended; hoping for its return next year. We certainly live in a very diverse environment in Dubai, and the festival brings us closer to other nationalities by telling us stories that we might relate to or stories that might teach us something new. It definitely takes us away from Hollywood and closer to the rest of the world. This year’s DIFF was an interesting journey; it might not have been as fun as last year's with all the outdoor movies and beanbags experience, but it really did creat a big stamp on the UAE’s movie role. Many young and talented Emirati directors emerged this year and many of them tackled sensitive issues in the country, hoping to be heard; hoping for a change. It is such a big step for the UAE to show more interest in films, because the cinema plays a big role in our time. DIFF encourages the Emiratis to make a difference through their movies. One movie, one scene, or even one line can change the world.

It was an interesting journey of cinematic styles and exploration of issues.

Intruder: It is a unique movie. It is interesting that director Majid Al Ansari picked science fiction as a theme. The movie started well; you see a couple expecting a child in a car holding hands, but they suddenly crash into a light pole. The husband sees a spaceship and that’s when the weirdness starts. The “scary-alien” was unrealistic; it looked like a plastic toy. It was rather funny to see a grown man shake from fear at the sight of the plastic alien. Moreover, his wife gave birth to an egg. Yes, an egg. To be honest it was too disturbing to see a woman giving birth to an egg.  However, I applaud the director for being different. The filming and editing were excellent.

The Missing Colour: This movie brought up a very sensitive topic in the UAE. It’s about an eight-year-old girl who’s neglected by her parents. She comes home every day to see her father arguing with her mother, a constant battle with each other that drives their daughter to become very isolated and quiet. One day, she’s walking home after school and stops to see a new bag hanging outside a grocery store. The owner of the store sees her and smiles. A few days later, her parents fight again so she decides to go out for a walk. As she was walking in the dark, the owner of the grocery store sees her and brings the bag she wanted. He puts it around her back, holds her hand and walks off. The director wanted to portray the fact that the man took her away for a bad deed. However, some of the viewers felt like he was trying to do a good deed by taking her home while others said that they assumed it was an open ending. In conclusion, it was nice, sweet and simple. The film is by Rawia Abdullah.

London in a Headscarf: This is a documentary by Miriam Al Serkal about herself. She specifically tackles the issues that an Emirati woman goes though when she decides to go abroad for education. First of all, many Emiratis do not approve of a female travelling without a male member of the family; in other words ‘Mehrem’. However, many females do it. Secondly, she interviewed a few men about their opinion - some said they do not want to marry a woman who has gone alone to study elsewhere whereas others disagreed. There was also an interesting scene where she asked a man, why it was okay for a male to travel alone but not for a female? Obviously, there was no answer. I loved this movie. I do hope she takes this documentary further and shows it all across the UAE because it is an issue that Emiratis must be aware of. A woman does not need a man to rely on. She must be trusted. She was born an individual therefore she can make decisions and live her life as one. Unless, she decides otherwise.

End of December: This movie by Hamad Al Hammadi is about a woman living with her elderly father who’s caught up in his past. During the movie, you see him insisting on going to the sea whereas his daughter constantly tells him not to and continues telling him about a wedding that she wants to go to. You also see her telling her friend that she can’t go, because she can’t leave her ill father alone. This story felt so personal to me. I’ve seen my own aunt leaving everything in her life behind to take care of my late grandmother, may she rest in peace. Sadly the movie had potential but was done in a very average manner. The acting was good, the storyline was even better but it was too slow for my liking. Therefore, it did not move me like I expected it to but I still liked the storyline and loved the ending because the old man’s daughter decides to take him to sea after all. It was pure, simple and lovely. 

Throughout the festival, I saw the directors speaking to their fans. I noticed that they were sweet and enthusiastic. They made us proud as with their movies they are making a big difference.

Reviews by Hamda M. Alnaimi/Community Journalist


By Mohammed Fikree
The 2D cartoon animation was done very well, so was the sound track. I found it very artistic. This Director’s concept is pretty much different than the usual. In the movie the big white monster represented the people who tend to hurt children, for example pedophiles or kidnappers. I would actually like to see more of his movies, not much of that kind of style has been done by Emiratis before.


By Talal Mahmoud
This movie really made me realise how still some families in our world have not been fully civilized yet. What shocked me was that it was about a true story. The director has visited the women herself at the prison where she is serving 20 years. I do think stories like that need to be brought to light more because some still don’t know or believe they happen here.

Slow Death

By Jamal Salim
I think this movie was one of the best directed, It also had a few funny shots in there which everyone enjoyed. I liked how the old man would appreciate his unusual job and kept doing it, he had so much passion for his line of work and didn’t want to let it go, probably because it was all he had and he had no family or any other reason to live. The movie’s main idea did attract my attention because it does happen a lot. The man who lived and worked for that land for 30 years would not even be allowed to call it his home, which was sad. All and all, the movie is a must watch.

Muhr Emirati movies reviewed by Dana A. Shams/Community Journalist

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