Nadine Labaki 2-1583231442416
Nadine Labaki Image Credit: Gulf News archives

The four-day Al Marmoom: Film in the Desert kicks off on March 4, with headline names such as Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nadine Labaki in attendance, along with actors Hatem Ali and Habib Ghuloom.

Running until March 7 and a part of the Dubai Art Season, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) event will act as a platform to support and showcase emerging filmmakers and established ones locally and regionally.

Hatem Ali-1583231444735
Actor Hatem Ali Image Credit: Supplied

Taking place at the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, the festival aims to educate the public, particularly the younger generation, on the world of cinema from a regional perspective. It will also grant audiences the opportunity to be introduced to stories specific to the Gulf region, as well as learn about other communities and societies.

In the first edition of the Al Marmoom: Film in the Desert, Cinema Akil is presenting a line-up of poetry, and a film programme that presents feature length narrative and documentary films, including the award-winning 2019 contemporary Sudanese feature film by Amjad Abulala, ‘You Will Die at Twenty’. The programme will feature content from 1988 to 2019.

Habib Ghuloom-1583231447866
Habib Ghuloom Image Credit: Supplied

Through a special programme of Emirati shorts, stories of everyday life will unspool made by filmmakers from this land. The short films will feature some of the newest voices of Emirati cinema with a strong female film showcase including ‘Grandma’s Beauty’ by Kaltham Abdul Rahim Abdullah Al Ali and Dana Ibrahim Al Serkal, ‘A Night in a Taxi’ by Aisha Alzaabi and ‘The Neighbour’ by Nayla Al Khaja.

The history of Libyan leader Omar Mukhtar shall stand remembered in a special screening of the recently restored classic ‘Lion of the Desert’, which will pay tribute to the late legendary Syrian-American director Moustapha Akkad (1988).

Schedule of films

March 4

Dunya’s Day

Set in an affluent suburb of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the film follows Dunya on the day of her graduation party. Hours before her esteemed guests arrive, all the domestic help take off — fed up with ‘Madame’ Dunya’s antics.

To My Dear Home With Love

Nine-year-old Fatima wants to return to her old house. She does not approve of her new house as it’s without her friend Sara. She meets Khalid, an 11-year-old, who accompanies her.

Sharp Tools

This is a fascinating portrait of arguably the most influential figure in contemporary art in the Gulf, the late Hassan Sharif. Artist, thinker, writer and critic, Sharif died in September 2016, at the age of 65, having spent much of the past half-century expanding the parameters of art in the region, through provocative conceptual pieces, experiments in performance as well as numerous paintings, works on paper and sculptures.

March 5

Lion of the Desert

Lion of the desert-1583231450946
Lion of the Desert Image Credit: United Film Distribution

Catch the premiere of the restored Moustapha Akkad classic film. In Fascist Italy pre-World War II, the cruel General Rodolfo Graziani is directly assigned by Benito Mussolini to fight in the colonial war in Libya to vanquish the Arab nation. However, his troops are frequently defeated by the national leader Omar Mukhtar and his army of Bedouins.

Emirati Shorts Section

Directed by Nayla Al Khaja, Abdulaziz Almannaei and Abdulrahman Al Madani, watch ‘The Neighbor’ (22 min) ‘Goldfish’ (8 min) and ‘Laymoon’ (15 min).

March 6

Mad Max: The Road Warrior

Wandering the deserted highways of dystopian Australia after eradicating the Night Rider’s followers in Mad Max (1979), the former patrolman, Max Rockatansky, finds himself roaming the wasteland scavenging for food and petrol. Suddenly, in the wilderness, Max chances upon a small oil refinery; however, the place is under siege by Lord Humungus’ barbarian horde of biker warlords.

Emirati Shorts Selection

Catch films by Mohammad Al Hammadi (‘Maryam’), Aisha Alzaabi (‘A Night in a Taxi’), Kaltham Abdul Rahim Abdullah Al Ali and Dana Ibrahim Al Serkal (‘Grandma’s Beauty’).


Theeb Image Credit: Supplied

In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy experiences a greatly hastened coming-of-age as he embarks on a perilous desert journey to guide a British officer to his secret destination.

March 7


A caravan escorts an elderly and dying Sheikh through the Moroccan Atlas. His last wish is to be buried with his close ones. But death does not wait. The caravaners, fearful of the mountain, refuse to continue transporting the corpse.

You Will Die at Twenty

When Muzamil was born, a prophecy by the holy man of the village predicts that he will die when he is 20 years old. Muzamil’s father cannot stand the doom and travels away from home.

The Letter Writer

Set in 1965, in the British protectorate trucial state of Dubai, the letter writer tells the story of a young precocious Arab nationalist boy, who works summers as a professional letter writer, transcribing letters into classical Arabic for locals. One day he is approached by an Indian man who wants to start a correspondence with an English woman he is in love with.

Special Events

Nadine Labaki in conversation takes place on March 5.

Habib Ghuloom and Hatem Ali will headline a panel on building a strong film industry on March 7.


Don’t miss it!

Al Marmoom: Film in the Desert runs from March 4 to 7 at Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve. Full schedule and details online.