Dubai Film Fest to open with deeply moving Room
December 09 2015 12:18 AM

Zinzana from Emirati director Majid al-Ansari, is a neo-noir thriller set in a small town police station, where a young man is held for an unknown crime.

By Gautaman Bhaskaran

The 12th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will open this evening, December 9, with Leny Abrahamson’s Room, a deeply moving story of emotional and physical survival. Adapted from Emma Donoghue’ s 2010 bestselling novel (she also wrote the screenplay), Room, as the Festival put it, is a “low-key gem”.
Driven by nuanced and impressive central performances, poignant and controlled, Room follows the dark story of five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who lives happily with his mother – whom he simply calls Ma (Brie Larson). But, they are held captive by a man, who kidnapped Ma seven years earlier. The only world Jack knows is the shed they are kept in or ‘room’ as he calls it. That is until they plan an escape and their world changes yet again.
A review in Variety had this to say: “The cramped 11-by-11-foot interior of a sealed, sound-proof garden shed isn’t the only thing keeping a boy and his mother prisoner in Room, a suspenseful and heartrending drama that finds perhaps the most extreme possible metaphor for how time, regret and the end of childhood can make unknowing captives of us all. It’s a testament to the story’s underlying integrity that, even when deprived of some of the elements that made Emma Donoghue’s 2010 book so gripping, director Abrahamson’s inevitably telescoped but beautifully handled adaptation retains considerable emotional impact as it morphs from a taut survival thriller into a hauntingly conflicted drama of loss, mourning and gradual reawakening.”
Apart from Room, the Festival will have 12 titles from the United Arab Emirates competing in the prestigious Muhr Emirati Competition. The compelling line-up will include five features, the highest ever in this section, and seven documentaries and shorts.
This unprecedented number of features proves the region’s rising talent, said the Festival’s Artistic Director, Masoud Amralla al-Ali. “Now in its 12th year, we have seen the Arab movie industry and global interest in it develop at a rapid pace. And the Festival is committed to providing a platform for local filmmakers to showcase their talent in the region and across the world.”
The highly anticipated debut feature Zinzana (Rattle the Cage), from Emirati director Majid al-Ansari, is a neo-noir thriller set in a small town police station, where a young man is held for an unknown crime. As his interrogation begins, so does a cat-and-mouse game.
Smell of Bread tells the story of a hearing impaired child whose quiet life in a bakery is shattered when she is molested and her family refuses to acknowledge the horrific incident.
Winner of the 2008 Muhr Emirati Competition, acclaimed director Saeed Salmeen al-Murry returns with his heart-warming world premiere feature, Going to Heaven. Which is a touching tale of a 11-year-old boy, Sultan, who longs for the tender care of his dead grandmother as he suffers through the cruelty of his stepmother.
Also a world premiere will be Abdullah by Humaid al-Suwaidi — a story of conflict between tradition and ambition in a young Emirati whose only dream is to become a musician, a dream his conservative family opposes.
Tarek Alkazim’s The Man Who Met an Angel will also be a world premiere, focussing on a good Samaritan, whose life turns topsy turvy when his beliefs are challenged by a mysterious man.
Some of the shorts have fascinating narratives. The Man Who Saw Snow In Summer presents the life of a laundryman exploited by his employer. Open Wound centres on a girl who becomes a boxer only to confront her abusive husband.
Outside competition, the Festival will present 57 fascinating features from across the globe. A peek at some of them.
There are three Indian titles. Raam Reddy’s Thithi is a witty narrative about three generations of men, and what happens in their village when the eldest among them, Century Gowda, dies. Rinku Kalsy joins the line-up with her compelling biopic on Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, called For The Love Of A Man. Anu Menon’s Waiting talks about the frightening experience of a retired professor and a young woman as they wait in a hospital for their relatives to come out of a coma.
And then we have Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase showcasing her heart-warming movie, An. Focussing on the life of a pancake stall manager, the story tells us how an elderly lady who comes to him for work wins him over with her delicious home-made bean paste. The two build up a relationship which goes beyond simple street food.
Iranian director Amir-Hossein Saghafi will come to Dubai with his third feature, The Man Who Became A Horse, which describes the obsessive relationship between a father and his daughter. And when it is time for her to get married and leave, the father tries every trick to keep her with him, and this includes a horse that the girl is extremely fond of.
Rams by Grimur Hakonarson from Iceland centres on how two estranged brothers in a remote farming valley patch up when their flock of sheep is threatened by disease.
Terence Davies will present his latest, Sunset Song, a deeply emotional film adaption of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon novel. Set in the harsh and beautiful Scottish heartland, Sunset Song is driven by a young farmer’s daughter, Chris, as she dreams of a life outside her homeland even as World War I takes its toll on the community.
French writer, scenarist, actor and helmer, Samuel Benchetrit joins the line-up with his latest directorial piece, Macadam Stories, which is all about chance encounters — between a disabled old man and a night nurse, between a troubled actress and a teenager, and between an American astronaut and his doting mother.
Sri Lanka’s Vimukthi Jayasundara follows a young Buddhist monk in Dark In The White Light as he journeys through Colombo in quest of spiritual truth.
Guatemala’s Ixcanul Volcana is a moving snapshot of a 17-year-old Mayan girl who faces a life-changing situation when she bitten by a snake.

♦ Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival, and may be e-mailed at [email protected]

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