Ben Kingsley en route to Middle East film fest

Arabic-dubbed 'Gandhi' will screen at the festival

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Ben Kingsley will attend the first Arabic-dubbed screening of "Gandhi" during the second annual Middle East International Film Festival, which kicks off Friday.

The special screening marks the first time Arabic viewers will have seen the film in their native language. The 1982 Richard Attenborough film, which won Kingsley an Academy Award for best actor, received eight Oscars.

"As the principle organizer of MEIFF 2008, one of our intrinsic values is the celebration of culture," said Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, vice chairman of MEIFF and director general of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.

Otis Sallid, choreographer of the 1996 Academy Awards, also will be in attendance at this year's MEIFF, returning to create the opening and closing ceremonies for the second year running. The theatrical performances will honor the presentation of international cinema.

"I'm a great believer in dance as an art form which transcends all boundaries, whether they be language, race or nationality. As an African-American, to be made the official choreographer of one of the Middle East's significant cultural events is truly a great honor," said Sallid, who has worked on several Spike Lee films.

The MEIFF, which takes place in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, is trying to position itself as a regional center for filmmaking and looks set to stand head to head -- in terms of headline inches at least -- with neighbor Dubai's more established fest.

Joining Kingsley at MEIFF this year are a host of Hollywood celebs including Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Catherine Deneuve, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. More names are expected to be announced as the festival draws closer.

The festival begins Friday and wraps Oct. 19.