Dubai Film Festival Finalizes Lineup, Sets 'Big Short' as Closing Film

The Big Short Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The Big Short Still - H 2015

Netflix's Ted Sarandos will take part in a special talk at the Middle East event, while Jake Gyllenhaal, Dev Patel, Shah Rukh Khan and Michael B. Jordan are set to attend.

The full lineup for the 12th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival, which set to kick off Dec. 9, was unveiled on Wednesday.

While the event's opener, Lenny Abrahamson's awards-tipped Room, had been previously announced, the latest high-profile addition is Adam McKay's A-list-heavy dramedy The Big Short, which will close the fest on Dec. 16.

Other major titles jostling for position over the eight-day event, the the Middle East's biggest film festival, include Concussion, Suffragette, Spotlight, Truth, The Peanuts Movie, The Daughter, The Lady in the Van, Sunset Song and The Man Who Knew Infinity. Leading the charge among regional fare is TIFF-bowing Palestinian drama The Idol from two-time Oscar nominee Hany Abu Assad and fellow TIFF neo-noir thriller Zinzana (Rattle the Cage), the hotly anticipated debut feature from emerging local talent Majid Al Ansari.

One of this year's more poignant highlights is likely to be 1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham, which features the final appearance of Omar Sharif, who passed away in July. The film will compete in the Muhr Gulf Shorts category.

The fest's scheduled attendees include Jake Gyllenhaal, who will be given a career retrospective; Dev Patel; Michael B. Jordan; Melanie Griffith; Eva Longoria; Ed Pressman; and Shah Rukh Khan.

On the industry side, the region's only co-production platform, Dubai Film Connection, has returned after a year's absence, and with it its director Jane Williams, who helped establish DIFF as the world's central marketplace for Arab cinema. Twelve projects — including ones from prominent regional directors including Annemarie Jacir and Hala Lotfy — will be vying for the $80,000 available.

Arguably the biggest addition to this year's industry events in Dubai is a live video conversation with Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos, which lands at a time when the streaming giant is poised to enter — and shake up — the Middle Eastern market.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, DIFF managing director Shivani Pandya said that Netflix was "extremely interested" in local content and that Juan Mayne, the streaming company's director of content acquisition, would be attending the fest to meet with filmmakers.

After the Abu Dhabi Film Festival announced in May that it would close after 8 years, DIFF became the only major film event in the United Arab Emirates.