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E. Nina Rothe: They Are the World: The 6th Gulf Film Festival in Dubai (PHOTOS)

What I made up for in enthusiasm for GFF (as insiders call the weeklong festival which is being held this year from April 11th to the 17th) I more than lacked in understanding. Here I was thinking this was a regional affair, mostly made up of shorts and student films from countries within the Arabian peninsula, with attendance by Emiratis and UAE expats living in Dubai, when I am faced with the fact that this year GFF is a worldly event, chock-full of films (more than I can ever manage to watch or write about) from all over the world. To be precise, 169 films from 43 countries, of which 78 are world premieres. All held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

“I challenge anyone to understand Islam, its spirit, and not to love it. It is a beautiful religion of brotherhood and devotion.” ― Yann Martel, Life of Pi (opening film of the 9th Dubai International Film Festival)
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun: Cannes Juror, Exceptional Filmmaker | E. Nina Rothe

Haroun's latest film Grisgris has a groundbreaking, pioneering aspect to it that cannot be overlooked. The first official entry from Chad to the Academy Awards Foreign Language Oscar race, it is simply a moot point that the film did not make the shortlist. It had already premiered in Cannes, where the film's director of photography Antoine Heberlé won the Vulcan Award, screened at festivals around the world, and is getting ready for a theatrical release in the U.S. soon, through prestigious world cinema distributors Film Movement.

"Omar in Toronto": Love in the Time of Conflict, with Hany Abu-Assad | E. Nina Rothe

In the first half of my profile of Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad -- "Omar in Toronto": Nazareth, in the Land of Film and Hany -- I wanted to showcase the city behind the man. Within its creative chaos and subtle but critical balances lie not only the clues to Abu-Assad's genius, but many of the answers that could help us navigate today's hyper-divided world. I also realize that Abu-Assad is a man whose ideas are groundbreaking and powerfully interesting, so here I left the talking to him. I simply guided some thoughts his way and let his personal truth, his voice, uninterrupted shine through.

Omar screens as a Special Presentation at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, starting September 10th.

Best of Venice 70: "Miu Miu Women's Tales" - The Door and Le Donne della Vucciria | E. Nina Rothe

"Miu Miu Women's Tales" is a series of six films commissioned by the Italian fashion house to combine "interesting cinematic themes and strong feminine points of view with fashion" and past contributors have included Zoe Cassavetes, Lucrecia Martel and Massy Tadjedin. The final products make the viewer believe in the magic of fashion but also tap into the great power of being a woman, a real woman, in today's world.

Bradley Cooper: Style Icon

This week, Cooper is my style icon. Not a woman this time, but someone equally at home — and strangely stylish in each — wearing Hefty or Armani. And don’t even get me started on how eagerly I’m awaiting the next installment of The Hangover 3…

E. Nina Rothe: The Sapphires Interviews: Wayne Blair and Shari Sebbens

During a magical afternoon, while sitting on a terrace in Madinat Jumeirah with birds chirping all around us, I caught up with The Sapphires handsomely understated director Wayne Blair and beautifully smart actress Shari Sebbens, who plays Kay. They shared their thoughts on the film, what it means to be an Indigenous Australian and why sometimes it's good to want to be Ralph Macchio.

"Omar in Toronto": Nazareth, in the Land of Film and Hany (Abu-Assad) | E. Nina Rothe

In person, Abu-Assad is a man bigger than life. Tall, with a hoarse, sultry voice, a soft hint of a hard-to-place accent, he's both boyishly vulnerable and magnetically strong. Perhaps too inconceivably insecure for a filmmaker of his status. Yet while he talks, looking you straight in the eyes with his own captivating set, everyone else in the room disappears, even if that "room" happens to be a noisy beachside lounge on La Croisette, filled with media from all over the world.

Searching for Superman: Bekas Finds Its Wings Thanks to DIFF

Zana and Dana are children of the land made infamous by Hussein's atrocities, but they lean upon the legend of an unlikely ally to help them survive their difficult surroundings and miserable situation: Superman. Or, as the brothers call him, "Zooperman." When they surreptitiously watch the superhero in action through a hole in the wall of their local cinema, they decide to go to Amrika (America) to find Superman and live within the shelter of his super life. "Does Zooperman have a father?" One asks the other. "Yes, his name is Super Dad!"

Best of Venice 70: Cherien Dabis Talks May in the Summer | E. Nina Rothe

Presented in the "Venice Days -- Giornate degli Autori" sidebar at this year's Venice Film FestivalMay in the Summer is everything that I'd hoped it would be: profound, passionate, funny, romantic, empowering -- the perfect half to the "diptych" Dabis admits she began with Amreeka, hinged by their common theme of "Otherness" and displacement. But where Amreeka dealt with the Arab-ness of Faour's character as being "the Other," May in the Summer brilliantly shows the challenges of being American, even Arab-American, in the Arab world.

E. Nina Rothe: Cooking in Cairo: Catching Up with Master Filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah

"For a collective censorship, for an oppressive mentality, making films about politics that seem very progressive, very revolutionary is much more comfortable than making films that question you, as a human being. And that's where the real censorship lies." Meeting Yousry Nasrallah face to face is a true luxury. Not because the Egyptian filmmaker makes himself precious -- quite the opposite really -- but because Nasrallah's extraordinary insight, languid expression and sensual voice all combine to create the most perfect conversation.

E. Nina Rothe: Wisdom From the Chairman: What I Learned From Abdulhamid Juma in Dubai

Sitting in conversation with Abdulhamid Juma, the Chairman of both the Dubai International Film Festival and the Gulf Film Festival, is a film-lover's dream come true. It's unique to find a perfect businessman who is also full of inspirational insight and possesses an infectious passion for cinema. Juma exudes an undeniable belief in the motto that has driven DIFF since its inception in 2004: "Bridging Cultures, Meeting Minds."

E. Nina Rothe: Jeremy Xido's Death Metal Angola: A Cult Classic in the Making
In his documentary titled Death Metal Angola, which premiered at this year's Dubai International Film Festival, filmmaker Jeremy Xido finds, with the help of his wonderfully positive protagonists, the Phoenix that has risen out of the ashes of war in Huambo, a city in the Angola highlands. With its epicenter at the orphanage of Okutiuka, Xido discovers a culture of music and life, accompanied by the kind of joie-de-vivre that can only come from having lived through unbearable hardship and strife.
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