Dubai Film Festival: Cate Blanchett, Patrick Stewart Receive Honorary Awards on Opening Night

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Cate Blanchett

The 14th edition of the Middle East's biggest film event opened with the Christian Bale-starrer 'Hostiles.'

The Middle East's biggest movie event opened its doors for another year on Wednesday night in the United Arab Emirates.

This time around, it was the Christian Bale-starring period Western Hostiles that raised the curtain on the 14th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival, once again taking place at its traditional hub at the beachside Madinat Jumeirah. 

The opening ceremony saw both Cate Blanchett and Sir Patrick Stewart presented with honorary awards, alongside Indian icon Irrfan Khan and Egyptian writer Wahid Hamed. 

Blanchett pointed out that it was her third time at DIFF, saying it was "always a pleasure to be a small part of festival that that supports diverse voices internationally and regionally" and adding that, given she was the evening's first award recipient, it was "ladies first tonight ... which is a good motto for the film industry."

Stewart, however, used his time onstage to add his voice to the growing chorus of discontent about the current state of global affairs.

"Not only Hollywood, but Europe and the outside world is in turmoil at the moment, and I believe that cinema has a role to play in bringing it to an end," said the actor. "It's an international language that everyone can apprecate and understand. Cinema can take this opportunity and move all of us forward."

The Star Trek and X-Men icon's sentiment was echoed by Hostiles writer-director Scott Cooper, who in a recorded video message said that today's "polarizing" situation in the U.S. is similar to the period in the 19th century in which his film is set. "My hope is that Hostiles will begin conversations about reconciliation and healing," he said, having been introduced by Alex Walton of Bloom, which handled sales of the film. 

On Thursday in Dubai, Blanchett will head up the IWC Shaffhausen prize jury that will see one Arab film project win a cash grant of $100,000 from the Swiss watchmaker. Other events over the fest's coming eight days include a career retrospective with Stewart and an in-conversation with Morgan Spurlock, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter. Spurlock will also present his latest documentary, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken. 

Among the schedule of films are some 140 titles from 51 countries, with 18 gala screenings, including international festival hits such as The Shape of Water, Downsizing, The Disaster Artist, The Death of Stalin, The Square and On Chesil Beach.

DIFF is set to close Dec. 13 with the regional premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. 

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