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Samuel L. Jackson strolled arm in arm with his wife LaTanya Jackson down the red carpet at the opening night gala of this year’s Dubai International Film Festival. Tyrese Gibson and Olga Kurylenko were also in attendance for the premiere screening of Miss Sloane, the John Madden-directed film about a Washington lobbyist, played by Jessica Chastain, who takes on the issue of gun control.
Jackson, along with Bollywood actress Rekha and French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared, who won an Oscar for The English Patient, were honored with lifetime achievement awards.
“Oh please,” Jackson said as he took the stage in a blue-and-gray polka dot suit, accepting an IWC watch and award from Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and DIFF Chairman Abdulhamid Juma, “it’s amazing to be here, I’ve been trying to get here since the first one,” Jackson said, referring to the festival.
“Anybody out there who has got a job for a brother, let me know. Anytime you need me, call me. I will see if I can get here,” Jackson added, amid audience chuckles. “Maybe one of my films will be screening here next year.” DIFF will be holding an “in conversation with” Jackson Friday.
This year, the festival curated its lineup around five themes: peace, innovation, future, tolerance and cinema. In his opening remarks, Juma highlighted “the wonderful coincidence” that there are 13 Emirati films screening throughout the festival’s 13th edition.
During its eight days, the fest will host films in 40 languages hailing from 55 countries. More than 70 are Middle East premieres.
Madden took the stage shortly after with actor Jake Lacy, who stars opposite Chastain. Having his film selected to open the festival was “thrilling,” according to the director, although he followed up by saying “it’s ridiculous that two men are standing onstage here when it’s a film about women.”
After the screening, which was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and didn’t start until 9:30 p.m., guests feasted on a Champagne bar, lamb kofta rolls in saj bread, and a chocolate-filled treasure chest.
Although all the Hollywood stars departed immediately after the screening, the Sheikh made several loops, weaving through the white leather sofas and dance floors, stopping to pose for selfies and chatting with his 17-man entourage.
“I thought the film was very interesting,” the Sheikh told THR. “Very, very interesting.” When asked to elaborate, he smiled politely and pivoted, his posse immediately encircling him.
Eventually settling in the velvet-roped VIP area, the Sheikh remained at the event until nearly 2 a.m.
With 156 films, the festival runs through Dec. 14. Major international titles include La La Land, Nocturnal Animals and Manchester by the Sea.
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