Dubai Film Festival Sets Red Carpet Galas for 'Wadjda,' 'Bekas'

The films from Haifaa Al Mansour and Karzan Kader will be featured in gala screenings.

LONDON – Ground-breaking Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour and debut feature filmmaker Karzan Kader will each have gala screenings for their movies during the upcoming Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).

Mansour, Saudi's first-ever female moviemaker to shoot a film in her own the country, will see Wadjda make its Middle Eastern premiere during the event and should provide interesting feedback from a region where female filmmakers are uncommon.

Kader's Bekas will mark its international debut during Dubai's Muhr Arab Feature lineup, the event's Muhr Arab Feature strand, an increasingly large showcase of home-grown films.

Set against the turbulent Iraqi landscape under Saddam's regime, Bekas details the story of two homeless Iraqi-Kurdish children living on the edge of survival who catch a glimpse of the film Superman at the local cinema, resolving to travel to America on a donkey to live with him.

Partially inspired by her own youth, Mansour's coming-of-age story chronicles a young girl pushing the boundaries of modern society in Saudi Arabia as she strives to possess her own bicycle.

The movie already secured the Art Cinema Award at The Venice Film Festival 2012 and sparked international discussion and interest in the burgeoning talent of the Arab World.

DIFF artistic director Masoud Amralla al Ali said: "We are honored to have the opportunity to showcase these incredible films, providing a platform for Arab filmmakers to achieve their ambitions and giving them the opportunity to stand tall alongside their international counterparts. Furthermore, the fact that 17 of the films in the Muhr Arab Features, Shorts and Documentaries have received funding from [local funding program] Enjaaz, shows that a boost to our regional filmmakers produces incredible returns, not least to audience members."

The festival runs Dec. 9 through 16, opening with Oscar winner Ang Lee's Life of Pi, the filmmaker's 3D adaptation of Yann Martel's novel of the same name.