Dubai fest adds some star power


Tony Shalhoub and Sayed Badreya ("Three Kings") are helping to up the star quotient at next week's fourth Dubai International Film Festival.

The two actors are accompanying their latest project, "AmericanEast," the story of an Arab American and his Jewish best friend. They'll join a coterie of popular Arab actors as well as such international stars as George Clooney and Sharon Stone.

Introducing Jordan's first feature film in more than 30 years will be Amin Matalqa, director of "Captain Abu Raed." The country also is represented by U.K.-based Jordanian star Nadim Sawalha, star of "Whatever Lola Wants."

The selection of films sees political conflict and the struggle of the individual in Mid-East society as recurring themes, according to artistic director Masoud Amralla. "The reality of war is always in the background," he said. "Most of the films have this war background and then you go to the personal, human issues. But now filmmakers are digging into their past and into issues of identity more."

Egyptian director Mohammed Khan, whose "In the Heliopolis Flat" has been chosen to represent Egypt at the 2008 Academy Awards, also will be at DIFF.

Three-time award winner at the Venice Film Festival, director Abdellatif Kechiche will accompany his "Secret of the Grain," while acclaimed Moroccan director Ahmed al-Maanouni brings "Al Koloub al Mouhtariqua." Algerian director Amor Hakkar is screening "La Maison Jaune."

The fourth Dubai International Film Festival runs Dec. 9-16.