Dubai Film Fest: 'Into The Woods' Brings 11th Edition to a Close

Lee Daniels and Emily Blunt were among the star attractions during the weeklong event

Into The Woods, the musical fantasy set to release theatrically across the U.S. on Christmas Day, was the curtain closer at the 11th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival on Wednesday.

The red carpet at the Madinat Arena may have missed the footprints of the film's all-star cast — including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick and James Corden — but others figures including The Imitation Game's Matthew Beard and Jaeden Lieberher of St. Vincent were the special guests on the night.

As it happened, Blunt was a guest of the festival earlier in the week, heading up the jury for the IWC Filmmaker Award that saw $100,000 handed to the Kuwaiti project The Water by Abdullah Boushahri. Now in it's third year in Dubai, the IWC Filmmaker Award last time was won by Waleed Al-Shehhi's Emirati drama Dolphins, which found itself among 2014's schedule, receiving a red-carpet gala screening for its world premiere.

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On awarding the prize to The Water, Blunt — who was nominated for a Golden Globe during her stay in Dubai — said that the jury was looking for a "voice that stood out from the crowd."

Following last year's 10th anniversary celebrations, the festival was quieter this time around, with the industry section significantly trimmed and the Asia/Africa film section removed. There was also a noticeable lack of major Arab titles with international buzz on offer, 2013's event having opened with the Oscar-nominated Omar and 2012 being dominated by the acclaimed Saudi drama Wadjda.

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But the focus of 2014 was one of distribution, with an agreement made prior to the festival seeing five regional distributors agreeing to pick up at least one Arabic title from the schedule to release in the coming year. Dolphins, along with Egyptian drama Cairo Time and local comedy Abood Kandashian were among those selected.

"This new initiative will boost exposure to our filmmakers' work, which only goes to support the exponential growth of the film market in the UAE and beyond," said the festival's managing director Shivani Pandya.

Arguably the festival's most popular international guest this year was Lee Daniels, who turned up to Tuesday's awards ceremony in full Arabic robes, having earlier revealed that the U.S. had "brainwashed" him about Arabic culture.

"I'm that arrogant American that thinks they know everything. And coming here proves that I'm arrogant. I don't know it all," he said.

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