Dubai Film Fest: Emily Blunt, Lee Daniels Appear at Opening

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The Middle East festival kicked off with 'A Theory of Everything'

The 11th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival sprang into action on Wednesday evening in the Middle East, opening with the regional premiere of Oscar hopeful A Theory of Everything.

Among the big-name attendees at the city’s Madinat Arena was Emily Blunt, who took to the red carpet in an eye-catching embellished yellow gown. The Into The Woods actress is serving as jury head for the festival’s IWC Filmmaker award, which will be announced later in the week. The winner of the 2013 award, United Arab Emirates director Waleed Al Shehhi’s drama Dolphins, is among the films in this year’s lineup of 118 films.

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Lee Daniels, who is leading the jury for the festival’s main narrative competition, spoke of his desire to watch regional films.

"My experience is not just the American experience, but the African-American experience, so it’s always good to learn about other people’s experiences," he said. The Oscar-nominated director added that he had recently finished production on the 20th Century Fox TV musical drama Empire, starring Terrence Howard and Gabourey Sidibe and due to air in Jan. 2015.

Other guests on the opening night included former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, star of Russell Crowe’s directorial debut The Water Diviner, which is getting the red carpet gala treatment Thursday. Kurylenko’s character Camille may have escaped the 22nd 007 Quantum of Solace in one piece, but whether fellow Dubai attendee Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje maintains the same degree of longevity in his upcoming appearance in Game of Thrones remains to be seen.

The U.K. actor, who played Mr. Uko in Lost, recently finished filming on the fifth season of the HBO drama as new character Malko, but will first hit screens as loveable bodyguard Nash in the upcoming remake of Annie.

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"People normally see me playing bad guys, but it’s great that people can now see me in a softer light," he said.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje also spoke of his recent collaboration with Dubai-based animation studio Barajoun on an as-yet-untitled superhero project, due for release next year.

"They take real life historical superheroes and bring them into a modern context. It’s going to astound you," he said.

The Dubai International Film Festival will close on Dec. 17 with Into The Woods. Other guests are set to include Kelsey Grammar, who will be bringing the world premiere of his financial drama Breaking the Bank, Paul Bettany and Anil Kapoor.

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