David O. Russell's 'American Hustle' Closes Dubai Film Festival
DUBAI – David O. Russell's American Hustle, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis CK and Robert De Niro, brought down the curtains on this year's Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), provoking cheers and hysterics from the audience.
The red carpet missed the footprints of the star-studded cast as the Oscar hopeful continues its campaign for profile in Hollywood and the U.S. Russell and producer Charles Roven were the film’s star guests for the night.
The movie, produced by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna and Charles Roven’s Atlas, details the story of a brilliant con man (Bale) who, along with his equally cunning British partner and lover (Adams), is forced to work for a wild, unhinged FBI agent (Cooper). The story features a fake sheikh from Dubai’s neighboring city Abu Dhabi.
Italia Films will release the Sony Pictures-backed film in the Middle East.
The 10th edition of DIFF, held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, celebrated being the first festival to screen American Hustle. It had been billed by DIFF artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali as a fitting high note to end the event.
"Dubai is one of the first audiences in the world to see this film and this is its very first festival," Russell told the crowd as he introduced the film. "All the cast send their regards to Dubai."
This year’s festival lacked the star power that many media and regulars had hoped for to help trumpet the shindig that has established itself as the main event in the Middle East and one of the most important showcases for Arab cinema on the calendar.
A mix of production scheduling for many of the stars -- Bale is shooting Ridley Scott’s Exodus in Spain, Lawrence is filming the next installments of Hunger Games and Cooper is in action in Hawaii for Cameron Crowe’s untitled project -- and Oscar campaign season being in full swing played into the absence of other castmembers.
But the previous nine days has seen a smattering of glitz and glamor from Hollywood and beyond, including Cate Blanchett, Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara and Mark Ruffalo.
Mara and Ruffalo landed in the Middle Eastern metropolis to lend their support to the event’s annual charity gala dinner, "One Night To Change Lives," which raised over $1 million for Syria in partnership with Oxfam.
And it was a case of better late than never for the media with the arrival of Naomie Harris and Lindiwe Matshikiza, there to support the red carpet screening of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, after a request from the filmmakers led to the cancelation of all media activities scheduled ahead of the gala screening on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The movie’s gala red carpet screening went ahead as planned, while the gala's walkway was closed to all photographers and videographers.
Another attendee was Irish director Jim Sheridan, who headed up the festival’s Muhr Arab Feature jury and is planning to launch his own Arab film festival in Dublin next April.
"I got a good insight into the Arab world through the movies," said the six-time Academy Award-nominated director. "The immersion into so many movies so quickly is like a political course you couldn't get by reading any number of papers."
Speaking about the festival, DIFF chairman Abdulhamid Juma said: "The sense of community this year was palpable. After 10 years, we are seeing recurrent visitors, both film professionals and cinema lovers, from the region and beyond. This year we celebrated the gains that have been made in Arab cinema in the past decade, the result of years of work from our team to discover, nurture and promote talent from the Arab world."
Aside from the Hollywood glitz, the Arab film world was well represented at the event, with famous faces from the region including Egyptian stars Yousra, Yousry Nasrallah, Samir Ghanem, Ahmed Helmy, Mona Zaki, Mohamed Saad, Mahmoud Kabil and Bushra. Also in attendance was Arab American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, whose documentary The Square is an Oscar contender.
The festival, which has grown dramatically since it first began in 2004, celebrated its 10th edition with 70 world premieres (compared to just one in its first year) and opened with Omar, Hany Abu-Assad's tense Palestinian thriller and foreign-Oscar-nomination-race-hopeful from the territory.
Abu-Assad’s movie, which bowed in Cannes, was partially financed with help from Dubai’s own Enjaaz postproduction fund.
Aside from Omar, of five movies from the MENA region, three have Dubai money in them, signaling the growth in Dubai’s success and importance as a finance hub for Arab moviemakers.
Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female director and the country’s first-ever entry to the Oscars with Wadjda, won the best Arab film prize here last year and returned to sit on the jury for the award this year.
The other title with Dubai cash in the race is Lara Saba’s Blind Intersections from Lebanon.
DIFF ran from Dec. 6 through Dec. 14.
Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.