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Not a single star from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hit the red carpet for the film’s regional premiere and closing night gala of the Dubai International Film Festival. In their place was a host of storm troopers, Chewbacca, Imperial guards, even a Khaleesi-inspired R2D2, all of whom won awards and gift bags from the festival heads.
Immediately preceding the screening, Abdulla Al Kaabour won the award for best Emirati feature for Only Men Go to the Grave, his drama that explores gender and sexuality in the aftermath of the Iraq-Iran war. Eliane Raheb was awarded the special jury prize for her feature Those Who Remain. Maher Abi Samra was presented with the best non-fiction feature prize for A Maid for Each. Best fiction feature went to Hussein Hassan for The Dark Wind and best director was presented to Mohammed Hammad for Withered Green.
As the lights dimmed for Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards appeared in a video message saying: “I’m sorry I can’t be there with you tonight, but I want to say what an honor it is to be the closing film of the Dubai Film Festival. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it. May the force be with you.”
While that moment didn’t warrant an applause, the crowd cheered and clapped when Darth Vader made his first appearance onscreen, well into the first hour of the film.
The packed theater quickly dispersed after the film. His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was nowhere to be found. Unlike opening night, he opted out of the after party, which was held at Zero Gravity, a seaside bar/restaurant that featured flaming flood lights, a Spanish/Afro-Brazilian band and a bookcase full of bread.
The plexiglass-encased pool was roped off, as was the upper deck, although there wasn’t a celeb in sight. Nearly a dozen bars served champagne, red wine and soft drinks while a set of top 40 hits inside went head-to-head with the outdoor band. Cigar smoke mixed with the salty fog after midnight, as men in tunics and women in very long, tight dresses hit the dance floor. The force was certainly with them.
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