'Avatar' to close Dubai film festival

Lineup unveiled as region faces financial difficulties

LONDON -- The Dubai International Film Festival plans to stage its sixth edition this year despite the emirate being in financial meltdown and stock markets across the globe plummeting amid exposure to its debt crisis.

Putting on a positive front early Tuesday, festival organizers unveiled a glittering lineup of movies, including James Cameron's "Avatar," enough to make other festivals blue with envy. The lineup also boasts Rob Marshall's big-screen adaptation of stage musical "Nine" as its Dec. 9 opener.

As Tuesday dawned here, stocks crashed again across the Middle East as the Dubai debt crisis rumbled on.

The president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa, issued a statement through the state news agency backing Dubai's leadership. But organizers of the film festival were reticent in coming up with a statement with organizers, declining comment at time of going to press. It is unclear whether this year's event would be affected by the current turmoil.

Fest opener "Nine" depicts a director's midlife crisis and a series of complicated romantic entanglements and stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren. Other programmed movies include the world premiere of "City of Life," a multilingual emirati film from Ali F. Mostafa, and Indian superstar Ranbir Kapoor's "Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year." Cameron's "Avatar" will provide a big event to close the festival.

Also listed in the lineup is "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" and Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child" starring Naomi Watts, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington and Shareeka Epps.

DIFF 2009 is held in association with Dubai Studio City and is set to run Dec. 9-16. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah are the principal sponsors of DIFF and the event is supported by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).