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Diff 2017: Gulf News staff's movie picks

As the 8-day film festival kicks off, we pick the top films we don’t want to miss


Film: I, Tonya.

Director: Craig Gillespie.
When: Tuesday, December 12, 9.15pm, Mall of the Emirates; Wednesday, December 13, 8.15pm, Mall of the Emirates.
Why: In the movie’s trailer, Margot Robbie utterly creeped me out as an unhinged Tonya Harding. Allison Janney is brilliant as Harding’s terrifying mother, LaVona Golden. A feature film about the notorious American figure skater and her 1994 attempt to injure a competitor is the perfect mix of horror and reality that I can’t resist.

Film: I Am Not A Witch.

Director: Rungano Nyoni
When: Monday, December 11, 9.45pm, Mall of the Emirates; Wednesday, December 13, 5.30pm, Mall of the Emirates.
Why: The whole reason to watch this film is the stoic, sweet face of Shula, a young girl who is accused of being a witch in a rural Zambian village. As she is seen being pushed around in silence in the trailer, my heart hurt for her and made me yearn for a happy ending. I’ll just have to find out by watching the film.

— Jennifer Barretto, Staff Writer

Film: Mountain

Director: Jennifer Peedom
When: Thursday, December 7, 7.30pm, The Beach, JBR (free screening).
Why: This is a directorial venture that isn’t limited — simultaneously a musical, a documentary and a feature film. I am looking forward to feeling 74 minutes of awe, terror and victory as humans conquer nature’s most intimidating heights and weather.

Film: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
When: Monday, December 11, 6pm, Souk Madinat Theatre.
Why: The trailer made me both want to watch this movie and not watch it at the same time — and for me that’s the sign of a riveting thriller. I am also looking forward to great performances from Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell.

— Dona Cherian, Guides Writer

Film: My Generation

Director: David Batty
When: Thursday, December 7, 10pm, Souk Madinat Theatre.
Why: The 1960s was a whirlwind time for pop culture in the UK, and Michael Caine — alongside director David Batty — plunges us right into the heart of it with the help of Paul McCartney, Twiggy, Marianne Faithfull, David Bailey, Roger Daltrey and more. As a pop culture junkie, I can’t wait for this one. It received an eight-minute standing ovation in Venice.

Film: Naila and the Uprising

Director: Julia Bacha
When: Monday, December 11, 6.15pm, Mall of the Emirates; Tuesday, December 12, 3.30pm, Mall of the Emirates.
Why: During the 1987 uprising in Palestine, one woman in Gaza refuses to choose between love, family and freedom; Naila Ayesh joins a clandestine network of women fighting for Palestine’s right to self-determination. Julia Bachard’s documentary about the First Intifada is the kind of film that gets your heart racing before you’ve even seen it.

— Marwa Hamad, Senior Reporter

Film: The Square

Director: Ruben Ostlund
When: Thursday, December 7, 9.15pm, Mall of the Emirates; Friday, December 8, 7.30pm, Galleria Mall.
Why: It’s rare to find a film that incites such strong, complex feelings that force you to assess the very fundamentals of a capitalist hierarchy. Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, who played a hand at shaking up the foundations of human emotions in Force Majeure (2015), returns with The Square, a satirical take on the connoisseurs whose egos dictate the contemporary art world. The critically acclaimed film also won a Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Catch this Diff screening with lead star Claes Bang in attendance.

Film: The Death of Stalin

Director: Armando Iannucci
When: Friday, December 8, 6pm, Madinat Arena (gala screening).
Why: Black comedy has never been more delicious than Armando Iannucci’s satirical take on the political power struggle that follows the demise of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. As audacious ambition takes over, the savagery unspools a messy tussle to rise up the ranks. Oft hilarious and slyly pertinent, Iannucci’s punches are further underscored by a riotous ensemble cast, which includes Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Paul Whitehouse.

— Bindu Rai, Deputy tabloid! Editor

Film: The Shape of Water

Director: Guillermo Del Toro
When: Sunday, December 10, 9pm, Souk Madinat Theatre (gala screening).
Why: One look at the visually poetic trailer and you know Guillermo Del Toro is in full form again. The auteur, who brought us gems like Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy films, spins a fable on love, acceptance and tolerance, told through the love story between a mute cleaning lady at a government research laboratory (Sally Hawkins) and an amphibian creature (Doug Jones). I’m keeping my tissues handy.

Film: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Director: Paul McGuigan
When: Monday, December 11, 9pm, Mall of the Emirates; Wednesday, December 13, 2.30pm, Mall of the Emirates.
Why: Paul McGuigan’s biographical drama follows the last few years of Oscar winning-actress Gloria Grahame’s life — once a Hollywood diva, now doing theatre bits in Liverpool — as she meets a man half her age and they go off on a whirlwind romance. The film promises a story of resilience, lots of romance, drama and tears — the perfect recipe for a night at the movies.

— Shyama Krishna Kumar, Staff Writer

Film: Song of the Scorpion

Director: Anup Singh
When: Thursday, December 7, 6pm, Mall of the Emirates; Friday, December 8, 6pm, Mall of the Emirates.
Why: Two words. Irrfan Khan. This Indian actor has the ability to morph into any character that he plays on the big screen. Here in this dark love story, Khan plays a camel trader who falls in love with a young woman (Golshifteh Farahani) who has the ability to cure scorpion bites with a song. It’s a heady cocktail of folklore, romance and mystique.

Film: In The Shadows

Director: Dipesh Jain
When: Sunday, December 10, 6pm, Mall Of The Emirates; Tuesday, December 12, 2.45pm, Mall Of The Emirates
Why: Actor Manoj Bajpyayee turns creepy as an enigmatic loner in this atmospheric thriller. He lives in the slums of Old Delhi and is convinced that something sinister is happening to his neighbour. When it comes to giving you the shivers, Bajpayee has quite the reputation. It also stars Ranvir Shorey, Shahana Goswami and Neeraj Kabi, all good actors in their own right.

— Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Chief Reporter